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Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine

Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD)

ILD Lungs

Numerous conditions make up the group of disorders called ILD. Most of those disorders cause progressive scarring of the lung tissue that eventually affects your ability to breathe and get enough oxygen into your blood stream, but beyond this the disorders vary greatly. Although most cases of interstitial lung disease develop gradually, a few come on suddenly. Doctors can pinpoint why some cases of interstitial lung disease occur, but many have no known cause. In all cases, lung scarring, once it occurs, is generally irreversible. Medications occasionally can slow the damage of interstitial lung disease, but many people never regain full use of their lungs.

Because most ILDs are rare, patients with these disorders need physicians who have had considerable training and experience with these disorders. We have a dedicated clinic with a highly specialized team of physicians who are experts in ILD. We integrate state-of-the-art diagnostic techniques with the latest therapeutic options for the multidisciplinary care of patients. We have nationally recognized physicians in pathology, radiology and thoracic surgery as part of our team. We are committed to keeping your primary care physician informed regarding your treatment throughout this process.

Another important objective of the ILD Center is the early identification of patients for lung transplantation which is also offered at our institution. The ILD Center was also created to meet the challenge of understanding and developing better treatments for ILD. Some of the physicians in clinic will also be involved with research related to ILD.

To schedule an appointment, please call (414) 805-6633.

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Symptoms

Despite the wide variety of disorders classified as interstitial lung disease, the signs and symptoms are often similar, including:

  • A feeling of breathlessness (dyspnea), especially during or after physical activities
  • A dry cough

Because these problems are vague and tend to develop gradually - often long after you have irreversible lung damage - you may attribute them to aging, to being overweight or out of shape, or to the residual effects of respiratory infection. Symptoms tend to become progressively worse, however, and eventually you may notice you're getting out of breath during routine activities - getting dressed, talking on the phone, even eating. Other, far less common signs and symptoms include wheezing, chest pain and clubbing of the fingers, a physical sign that occurs when your fingertips painlessly enlarge and the nails curve over the tops of your fingertips.

Diagnosis

Doctors normally begin by taking a comprehensive medical history, focusing especially on occupational exposure to lung-damaging toxins, on medications and on the presence of health problems commonly associated with lung disorders.

But although a medical history and physical exam can be useful in ruling out certain conditions, they can't accurately diagnose interstitial lung disease. Instead, doctors utilize other tests such as:

  • Chest X-ray
  • CT scan of the chest
  • Pulmonary function tests (PFTs)
  • Exercise tests
  • Bronchoscopy with transbronchial biopsy and bronchoalveolar lavage
  • Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (surgical lung biopsy)
Important Links

Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation

Coalition For Pulmonary Fibrosis

Milwaukee Breath Scrounger (MBS) Pulmonary Fibrosis Support Group of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
(414) 313-4698

American Thoracic Society

Providers