Popcorn Lung – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and More 

Popcorn Lung – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and More

Popcorn Lung – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and More

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What Is Popcorn Lung?

Bronchiolitis obliterans is also known as “popcorn lung,” which is its nickname. This is a condition that causes damage to the tiniest airways in your lungs, which results in coughing and a feeling of being short of breath. Inhalation of a chemical that is used to flavour microwave popcorn can occasionally trigger this condition. But popcorn lung can also be caused by exposure to other chemicals or lung diseases.

bronchiolitis obliterans has caused some damage.

The oxygen that is taken in by your blood is first processed in your lungs, and then it is distributed to the cells of the rest of your body. When you take a breath in, air travels down your windpipe, also known as your trachea, and into your lungs. The windpipe branches off into two smaller tubes known as the bronchi, which then lead to the left and right lungs, respectively.

These tubes branch off in a never-ending pattern, much like the branches on a tree, deep within your lungs. The tiniest of these branches are known as bronchioles, and they terminate in extremely small air sacs that are referred to as alveoli. Your blood will pick up the oxygen in the alveoli as it travels through your lungs.

These minute airways become irritated and inflamed when a person has a condition known as “popcorn lung.” This results in scarring, which makes them more narrow as a result. This makes it more difficult for you to take in sufficient air.

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What Causes Popcorn Lung?

The molecule known as diacetyl is responsible for giving this illness its nickname. Some businesses decided to stop using diacetyl as a flavour after it was discovered that employees at a plant that processed microwave popcorn had a higher incidence of bronchiolitis obliterans compared to other people. However, it can still be found in some varieties of electronic cigarettes sold in the United States. Many manufacturers of electronic cigarettes have said that they do not include this ingredient in their products, and the use of this chemical in electronic cigarettes is illegal in Europe.

Acetaldehyde is a chemical that can be present in the smoke of marijuana as well as some types of electronic cigarettes. This is another typical reason. Additionally, acetaldehyde can cause irritation to the mucosal lining of the mouth, throat, and stomach.

Other substances that can contribute to the development of popcorn lungs include the following:

vapours of metal oxide, which are a typical waste product of welding

Formaldehyde is a chemical that has been linked to cancer and is used in several adhesives and building materials.

Sulfur dioxide is a pollutant that is produced when fossil fuels are burned.



Nitrogen oxides

Hydrochloric acid

Mustard gas, often known as sulphur mustard, is a type of chemical weapon.

After having a serious sickness that damages your lungs, such as some types of pneumonia or bronchitis, you may develop bronchiolitis obliterans at some point in your life. This condition can be fatal. Popcorn lung is a disorder that can be a complication of rheumatoid arthritis, and it can affect some persons who have that condition.

If your body makes an effort to reject the new organ that has been transplanted into you after having a lung transplant or stem cell transplant, you may develop this illness. It is the most common reason for a person to pass away after receiving a lung transplant.


Popcorn lung is characterised by a dry cough and shortness of breath as the primary symptoms. These symptoms manifest anywhere from two weeks to two months after a person has been exposed to a toxic gas or has recovered from an illness. When you exercise vigorously or perform strenuous labour, you increase your risk of having them significantly. If you’ve recently undergone a lung transplant, it could be several years before you start experiencing symptoms.

It’s possible that you have bronchiolitis obliterans if you experience fatigue for no apparent cause, wheeze even when you don’t have asthma or a cold, or both of these things at the same time.


If you experience some of the symptoms of bronchiolitis obliterans, your physician may advise you to get a chest computerised tomography (CT) scan. Multiple X-rays, each acquired from a unique vantage point, are combined to create a more accurate picture of the patient’s condition. They will probably also want to evaluate the state of your lungs to see how well they are functioning.

Your doctor may be able to detect from an X-ray of your chest whether or not your lungs are holding in too much air, but getting a biopsy is the most reliable approach to establish that you have bronchiolitis obliterans. Surgery is the modality of choice for accomplishing this.


It is critical to diagnose popcorn lung at an early stage because the disease causes damage that lasts a lifetime. If you do, you might be able to stop it from getting worse or at least slow down its progression:

If breathing in toxic chemicals was the cause, then you should avoid being around those substances as much as possible. You may be required to change employment or to start wearing protective gear while you are on the job.

In order to alleviate the inflammation that could eventually scar your airways, your doctor may prescribe you antibiotics or steroids.

It’s possible that taking medications that suppress your immune system will help protect your bronchioles from further injury.

Your physician will most likely prescribe you medication to alleviate your cough and open up your airways, as well as oxygen to assist in making it simpler for you to breathe.

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