Popcorn lung is also known as bronchiolitis obliterans. It is a severe and irreversible condition that causes scarring and constriction in the air sacs. Subsequent and continued inflammation reduces air movement and gaseous exchange in the lungs, which can be fatal in the long run. But what are some of the popcorn lung symptoms to look out for? The term ‘popcorn lung’ might sound awkward and strange, but it has this name for a reason.
Workers in a popcorn factory often fell sick after inhaling harmful chemicals such as artificial flavors and other ingredients found in popcorn and soft drinks. Even though the FDA approves some of these chemicals, they are only dangerous when inhaled.
What Promotes Popcorn Lung Symptoms?
Several causes will promote signs of popcorn lung condition. Some are genetic, while others are a result of chemical irritants. If a patient has had a respiratory infection such as a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or Mycoplasma, there are higher chances that they will suffer from popcorn lung inflammation. On the other hand, food flavorings, for example, diacetyl used in vaping juices and E-Cigs, have been proved to promote popcorn lung.
Symptoms of popcorn lung can be linked easily to those of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Even though it might not be evident in the first week of exposure to the chemicals, the symptoms will occur within the first eight weeks. Some of the signs to look out for include but not limited to:
- Difficulty in breathing.
- Progressive dry cough.
- Rapid weight loss
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pains etc.
These symptoms are relatively mild and not episodic as the case with asthma. However, you should seek advice from a certified clinical doctor if you notice persistent symptoms or worsening difficulty in breathing.
How to Diagnose Popcorn Lung?
Often, popcorn lung symptoms are misdiagnosed and confused with asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, etc. However, a certified physician will order a CT scan or a chest X-ray to put the misdiagnosis to rest. Another sure proof method to diagnose popcorn lung is a pulmonary function test. This test shows how perfect the lungs are functioning.
A surgical lung biopsy is another method to diagnose a problem with the lungs. Whichever method your doctor prescribes, it might be the most suitable method to diagnose popcorn lung.
Treating Popcorn Lung Problems
Even though there is no definitive cure for popcorn lung, there is a combination of treatments used to inhibit the symptoms’ progression. Again, your doctor will prescribe the right treatment depending on the occurring symptoms.
Popular treatment options are the use of corticosteroids and immunosuppressant therapy. As part of medication, your doctor might need to administer cough suppressants, oxygen suppressants, and bronchodilators.
In the case of severe inflammation, it might be necessary to have a lung transplant. However, popcorn lung might redevelop from complications during the transplant.
When you notice any signs of popcorn lung symptoms, it is crucial to have an appointment with your doctor. They will find the right treatment or refer you to a specialist for popcorn lung.