How Do You Know If You Have Popcorn Lung?
What is Popcorn Lung?
Popcorn lung is a lung injury known in medical terms as “bronchiolitis obliterans.” Bronchioles are the tiny tubes that spread out across your lungs to deliver air to the parts of your lungs that absorb oxygen. When these tubes get injured, they can swell from inflammation, blocking air from getting into your lungs.
While the name “popcorn lung” evokes images of your lungs bursting like popcorn kernels or looking like mottled popcorn ceilings, the name “popcorn lung” actually comes from another common cause of popcorn lung. Microwave popcorn has flavorings added to it that steam and evaporate. Many people who work in popcorn production breathe in these vapors and sustain injuries to their lungs and airways, resulting in “popcorn lung.” Vaping can produce similar effects, as chemicals in “vape juice” or “e-juice” could burn or inflame the pathways in your lungs, causing bronchiolitis obliterans.
This injury is usually caused specifically by a certain chemical: diacetyl. This chemical is an ingredient in some popcorn butters, but it is also found in vapes as well as traditional cigarettes, as it is a common flavoring chemical. Popcorn lung can also be caused by other chemicals and injuries, such as lung infections or injuries from inhaling toxic smoke.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Popcorn Lung
Popcorn lung, also referred to as obliterative bronchiolitis, is a dangerous medical condition that affects the tiny air sacs (bronchioles) of the lungs. There are a number of signs and symptoms that can indicate that a person has developed popcorn lung. For example, a person with popcorn lung will typically have scarring of the bronchioles that will make them harden and restrict the airways of the lungs. Other signs and symptoms of popcorn lung include:
- Frequent wheezing not similar to other conditions like asthma
- Shortness of breath or shallow breathing
- Unexplained exhaustion and issues with even mild physical activity
- Persistent skin irritation around the eyes, mouth, and nose when popcorn lung is the result of chemical interactions
- Dry cough
This is not an exhaustive list. There are other symptoms not listed here that a person with popcorn lung may experience. It is important to note that popcorn lung is irreversible. This means that while there may be some treatments that can alleviate the symptoms of popcorn lung, there is no way to cure the illness.
It is also important to know that the signs and symptoms of popcorn lung can begin to manifest as soon as two to eight weeks after being exposed to chemicals that can cause the disease. While it may take months of exposure for the condition to fully manifest, you should see a doctor immediately if you were an avid user of e-cigarette products or were exposed to other chemicals that can cause popcorn lung.
To learn more about popcorn lung and what causes the condition, you should continue reading and speak with an experienced Philadelphia e-cig injury lawyer.
What Does Popcorn Lung Do to Your Lungs?
Popcorn lung is caused by inflammation of the bronchioles in your lungs. When a part of your body is injured, it can get inflamed, turn red, and swell up. Similar things happen to your bronchioles, but that swelling can cause them to close shut and stop air from getting through. This obstruction is the primary cause of serious problems associated with popcorn lung.
In the early stages, popcorn lung usually results in coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing. Along with this, you might feel tired because less oxygen is getting through. Symptoms can get worse over time, even if you are no longer exposed to the cause of the popcorn lung. Your pathways in your lungs can continue to get more inflamed and close up more – and continually struggling to breathe can begin to compound and have the effects get worse.
Many of these effects are similar to bronchitis (inflammation of one of the bigger tubes in your lungs) or pneumonia (a lung infection that can range in severity). It may be difficult to tell the difference between a simple cough, bronchitis, pneumonia, another lung infection, or popcorn lung. You should always consult a doctor if you think anything is wrong with your breathing, especially if you’re a smoker or you frequently use vape or e-cigarette products
After the initial injury sets in, the bronchioles often develop scar tissue and stay closed. This means that popcorn lung is often permanent, and victims of popcorn lung may not see improvement. Even if you stop vaping, you could still get worse.
Ultimately, you could face weight loss, fevers, and other surprising results as advanced symptoms. While symptoms often get worse gradually, these side effects can also progress suddenly.
How Do E-Cigs Cause Popcorn Lung?
Recent studies have shown that electronic cigarettes (e-cig) like JUULs have played a significant role in the development of popcorn lung among unsuspecting consumers. This is because many forms of flavored e-cigarettes contained chemicals that were not meant to be inhaled directly. However, as e-cigs are relatively new, the regulations against them were not as stringent as they should have been.
One chemical that is often used as an ingredient in e-cigs is diacetyl. Diacetyl was formerly used to flavor a number of consumer items like popcorn, caramel, and other dairy products. However, it was later discovered that workers who inhaled the substance were developing popcorn lung at a remarkable rate. As a result, companies that utilized diacetyl stopped using the substance to flavor their food products.
Despite the history of diacetyl, e-cigarette companies like JUUL and others utilized the chemical when selling flavored brands of e-cigarettes. Many consumers were unaware that their mint flavored JUUL contained a substance that could cause them to develop popcorn lung until it was too late.
How is Popcorn Lung Treated?
A doctor will first need to confirm whether or not you have popcorn lung. There are many tests a doctor can run to test your breathing and lung capacity, and they may run a few of these tests. They will probably also take a chest X-ray to look for signs of scarring or occlusion in your lungs’ pathways. Once you are diagnosed with popcorn lung, the treatment can begin in earnest.
Sometimes medication can be used to decrease the inflammation. Anti-inflammatories and pain medication can help reduce the swelling, as can steroids, which might help alleviate symptoms and prevent additional scarring. In some cases, however, you may need to go on oxygen to get more oxygen into your body through the remaining pathways. In some cases, the injuries might be so severe that you need a lung transplant to be able to breathe properly again.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit for Popcorn Lung in Pennsylvania
If you wish to file a personal injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania because you developed popcorn lung, you should not waste any time. There are a number of studies that are being conducted that are indicating that flavored e-cigs may play a role in a person developing popcorn lung, cancer, and other serious illnesses.
Personal injury lawsuits are subject to the statute of limitations. As a result, a lawsuit must be filed within a two-year timeframe in Pennsylvania if you wish to pursue an e-cigarette company for injuries that you suffered. The two-year deadline begins to run from the day that you discover the injury. Additionally, it may be possible to file other types of lawsuits, like a product liability lawsuit.
Our firm can evaluate the facts of your case and help you determine an appropriate course of action so that you can pursue the compensation you need to treat your popcorn lung and any other injuries sustained due to vaping or smoking e-cigarettes.
Our Personal Injury Attorneys are Here to Fight for You
If you or a family member developed popcorn lung due to using a JUUL or other electronic cigarette, consult with an experienced Philadelphia personal injury lawyer today. The injury lawyers at the Reiff Law Firm possess decades of combined legal experience, and we would be honored to use our knowledge to fight for you. To schedule a free legal consultation to discuss your case, contact the Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940, or contact us online.