You'll probably first bring your symptoms to the attention of your family doctor. He or she may refer you to a pulmonologist — a doctor who specializes in lung disorders.
What you can do
Before your appointment, you might want to write a list that answers the following questions:
- What are your symptoms and when did they start?
- Are you receiving treatment for any other medical conditions?
- What medications and supplements have you taken in the past five years?
- What are all the occupations you've ever had, even if only for a few months?
- Do any members of your family have a chronic lung disease of any kind?
- Have you ever received chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer?
- Do you have any other medical conditions, especially arthritis?
It will help your doctor make a diagnosis if he or she can compare an old chest X-ray with the results of a current X-ray. The actual X-ray image is more important to your doctor than is the report alone. If your primary care physician had a chest X-ray done as part of your initial evaluation, bring that with you when you see a pulmonologist.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor may ask some of the following questions:
Jul. 09, 2011
- Are your symptoms persistent, or do they seem to disappear and then reappear?
- Have you recently had new contact with the following: air conditioners, humidifiers, pools, hot tubs, or water-damaged walls or carpet?
- Have any close relatives or friends been diagnosed with a related condition?
- Do you come into contact with birds through your work or hobbies? Does a neighbor raise pigeons?
- Do you have any family history of lung disease?
- Do you or did you smoke? If so, how much?
- Have you been diagnosed or treated for any other medical conditions?
- Olson AL, et al. Interstitial lung disease. In: Schraufnagel DE, et al. Breathing in America: Diseases, Progress and Hope. New York, N.Y.: American Thoracic Society; 2010. http://www.thoracic.org/education/breathing-in-america.pdf. Accessed May 20, 2011.
- Selman M, et al. Clinical, radiologic and physiologic features of interstitial lung diseases. In: Mason RJ, et al. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/192068760-2/0/1288/0.html. Accessed May 23, 2011.
- King TE. Approach to the adult with interstitial lung disease: Clinical evaluation. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed May 20, 2011.
- Raghu G. Interstitial lung disease. In: Goldman L, et al. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/191371208-2/0/1492/0.html#. Accessed May 20, 2011.
- What is idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/ipf/ipf_all.html. Accessed May 25, 2011.
- Shih G, et al. Interstitial lung disease. In: Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2011: Instant Diagnosis and Treatment. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2011. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05610-6..C2009-0-38600-6--TOP&isbn=978-0-323-05610-6&about=true&uniqId=230100505-53. Accessed May 25, 2011.
- King TE. Treatment of idiopathy pulmonary fibrosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed May 25, 2011.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/pulreh/pulreh_all.html. Accessed May 25, 2011.