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Recognising and managing patients with interstitial lung disease

Interstitial lung disease is a wide-ranging category of respiratory illness that includes many different lung conditions, such as interstitial pneumonia, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, non-specific interstitial pneumonitis and hypersensitivity pneumonitis. All interstitial lung diseases affect the interstitium, a delicate network of tissue that extends throughout the lungs and which supports the microscopic air sacs within the lungs (alveoli). Unfortunately, some forms of interstitial lung disease have a very poor prognosis, therefore it is important that community nurses are aware of the signs and symptoms of interstitial lung disease so that prompt referral, assessment and treatment can be started.