Vaping: Dr Sara discusses risk of 'popcorn lung'
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A research paper, published in The Journal of Nuclear Medicine, warned that vaping can “cause pulmonary inflammation and increases the risk of lung disease”. Worryingly, the report suggests that e-cigarette users have greater lung inflammation than cigarette smokers. This study is the first to provide evidence that vaping e-liquids with e-cigarettes creates a unique inflammatory response in the lungs that is different from cigarette smoking.
Utilising PET imaging and a novel radiotracer, the lungs of cigarette and e-cigarette users were compared.
Dr Reagan Wetherill said: “iNOS is an enzyme that is over-expressed in e-cigarette users and cigarette smokers, and is associated with acute and chronic inflammatory diseases.
“This makes it a relevant target for molecular imaging of lung inflammation and inflammatory lung disease.”
Study participants were divided into thee age- and sex-matched groups:
- Five e-cigarette users
- Five cigarette users
- Five never smoked/vaped controls.
E-cigarette users showed greater pulmonary inflammation than cigarette smokers and never-smoked/vaped controls.
A positive association between pulmonary and peripheral measures of inflammation were also found, suggesting that e-cigarette use may increase pulmonary inflammation.
Dr Wetherill, from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, commented on the findings.
“Having these findings provides patients with additional evidence about the potentially harmful effects of e-cigarette use on the lungs.
“Our work advances what is currently known about the impacts of e-cigarette use on respiratory health.
“And provides a better understanding of harm and harm reduction associated with e-cigarette use relative to cigarette smoking.”
Inflammatory lung disease
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) describes lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
The main symptoms of COPD include:
- Increasing breathlessness, especially when active
- A persistent chesty cough with phlegm
- Frequent chest infections
- Persistent wheezing.
“Without treatment, the symptoms usually get progressively worse,” the NHS says.
“There may also be periods when they get suddenly worse, known as a flare-up or exacerbation.”
People who have persistent symptoms of COPD, particularly if over the age of 35, are strongly advised to “see a GP” if they smoke, or used to smoke.
Treatment is advised as soon as possible, before the lungs become “significantly damaged”.
The NHS adds: “The likelihood of developing COPD increases the more you smoke and the longer you’ve smoked.”
While the damage to the lungs caused by COPD is “permanent”, treatment can help to slow down the progression of the disease.
Treatments can include inhalers and medications to help make breathing easier, and pulmonary rehabilitation.
People who have COPD are strongly advised to stop smoking – it’s the “most important thing you can do”.
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