Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a chronic, progressive lung disease characterized by progressive lung scarring and the histological picture of usual interstitial pneumonia (UIP). It is associated with increasing cough and dyspnoea and impaired quality of life. IPF affects ∼3 million people worldwide, with incidence increasing dramatically with age. The diagnostic approach includes the exclusion of other interstitial lung diseases or overlapping conditions and depends on the identification of the UIP pattern, usually with high-resolution CT; lung biopsy might be required in some patients. The UIP pattern is predominantly bilateral, peripheral and with a basal distribution of reticular changes associated with traction bronchiectasis and clusters of subpleural cystic airspaces. The biological processes underlying IPF are thought to reflect an aberrant reparative response to repetitive alveolar epithelial injury in a genetically susceptible ageing individual, although many questions remain on how to define susceptibility. Substantial progress has been made in the understanding of the clinical management of IPF, with the availability of two pharmacotherapeutic agents, pirfenidone and nintedanib, that decrease physiological progression and likely improve progression-free survival. Current efforts are directed at identifying IPF early, potentially relying on combinations of biomarkers that include circulating factors, demographics and imaging data.