Vaping: Dr Sara discusses risk of 'popcorn lung'

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Appearing on ITV’s This Morning, alongside TV presenters Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary, Doctor Sara Kayat warned of the health dangers associated with vaping. “Associated [with] gum disease… there are lots of other concerns that are starting to bubble,” Doctor Kayat began. “The most concerning are lung injuries. There’s a condition popcorn lung. It’s an inflammatory lung disease that can occur as a result of vaping.”

Asthma and Lung UK, a leading charity, explained that popcorn lung is medically referred to an bronchiolitis obliterans.

Bronchiolitis obliterans describes “permanent damage to the small breathing tubes, caused by inflammation and scarring”.

One of the main causes of the condition is “breathing in chemicals that irritate the lungs”.

The Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD) listed symptoms, such as:

  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Wheezing in the absence of a cold or asthma.

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Symptoms can flare up while exercising or doing manual labour, said the American Lung Association.

The organisation added: “Not everyone with bronchiolitis obliterans will have symptoms.”

Diagnosis will involve a doctor listening in to your breathing and ordering a chest X-ray or CT scan, and lung function tests.

Lung function tests measure the amount of air you can breathe in and out.

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“If the diagnosis is still unclear, a lung biopsy may be necessary,” the American Lung Association noted.

Popcorn lung is “irreversible” and “chronic”; treatment only helps to slow down the progression of the disease and reduces the severity of symptoms.

Moreover, “if the disease was caused by breathing in a harmful chemical, it is essential to reduce your exposure to that chemical and any other toxin”.

Treatment typically involves the use of corticosteroids, which work by suppressing the immune system to dampen down inflammation.

The doctor might recommend the use of an inhaler and prescribed steroids.

Touching on popcorn lung and vaping, Cancer Research UK said: “A possible link has been suggested between the disease and a chemical called diacetyl.

“Some of the liquids in e-cigarettes used to contain diacetyl. In the UK, diacetyl was banned in e-cigarette liquids under the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) in 2016.”

E-liquids now sold in the UK should not contain diacetyl, so the charity reported: “E-cigarettes don’t cause the lung condition known as popcorn lung.”

E-cigarettes, however, are still considered a “relatively new product” that “aren’t risk-free”.

“We don’t yet know their long-term impact,” the charity added. “But research – so far – shows that vaping is less harmful than smoking tobacco.”

People who haven’t smoked previously are discouraged from vaping.

“For the best chance of quitting, get support from a free, local stop smoking service.”

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