The New England Journal of Medicine has linked nine different vape pen diseases that affect the lungs. This is what they are and what it could mean if you have them.
Acute Eosinophilic Pneumonia (AEP)
Vape pen diseases are serious. This is a lung disorder caused when eosinophils – a type of white blood cell – rapidly accumulates in the lungs. These blood cells fight inflammation and infection. However, ensophils cause coughing, fatigue and shortness of breath when the lungs produce too many at once. Possibly caused by some compound or another inhaled while vaping that irritates the lungs.
If caught early, AEP is treatable. The usual course of treatment includes with corticosteroid and most patients will recover.
New Mystery Vape Pen Diseases
We are currently in the middle of a vape pen epidemic. As of this writing, 15 people have died and over 800 consumers have been affected by a yet-to-be identified illness. While there are many theories, the CDC has identified black market and illicit vape pens and e-cigarettes as a likely cause. According to an NBC News investigation, a fungicide has been found in many black market vape pens. This fungicide turns into hydrogen cyanide when heated. To put that in context, cyanide was the same poison used in the Jonestown massacre.
Regardless, you should be vigilant if you use vape pens or e-cigarettes. Keep an eye on your health to see if you have any vape pen illness symptoms. As always, only purchase the safest vape pens from trusted outlets. And always check the CDC’s site for updates on this new mystery illness.
Cryptogenic Organizing Pneumonia (COP)
Cryptogenic organizing pneumonia occurs when lung scarring or inflammation blocks the small airways and air sacs of the lungs. Labored breathing, persistent coughing and fever are some common symptoms. Like AEP, lung irritating compounds found in vape juices and cannabis concentrates cause COP.
Glucocorticoids steroids have been an effective treatment of COP and most patients will recover after proper treatment. However, around one third of patients will continue to experience symptoms even after treatment.
This is the condition that’s probably most associated with the current outbreak out vaping-related lung diseases. Lipoid pneumonia occurs when fat particles get stuck inside the lungs. This makes it difficult to breathe. It’s possible that certain oils and fats found in vape juice and cannabis concentrates are building up inside the lungs of vape users and causing these cases of lipoid pneumonia.
Often times all it takes to cure lipoid pneumonia is to avoid the substance that has caused the fat top build in the lungs. However, in some cases physicians may prescribe anti-inflammatories as an additional treatment.
Diffuse Alveolar Damage and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
ARDS is the buildup of fluid in the lungs tiny air sacs. Therefore, this prevents air from reaching the bloodstream. Inhaling smoke or chemicals is typically the root cause of ARDS. It can cause fatigue and shortness of breath. ARDS can then lead to more serious diffuse alveolar damage which can cause lung inflammation.
Oxygen therapy is the preferred solution for ARDS patients in most cases. In some instances the lungs never fully recover and patients will suffer ongoing symptoms.
Diffuse Alveolar Hemorrhage
Diffuse alveolar hemorrhaging happens when things like exposure to toxins or lung infections damage blood vessels in the lungs and cause hemorrhaging. For vape users this would be caused either by vape juice that has been contaminated with pesticides or other toxic materials or by lung irritating compounds included in their vape products. Some of the milder symptoms are coughing, fever and shortness of breath but on the more extreme end patients may cough up blood.
Hemorrhoids of any kind are pretty serious and patients can die from them. Treatment often includes the use of corticosteroid and sometimes plasma exchange.
The lung disease – hypersensitivity pneumonitis – is a lung inflammation. The cause is typically an allergic reaction to dust, fungus, mold or chemicals. This can develop in people who use vaporizers if they happen to be allergic to one of the chemicals or compounds found in the vape juice or cannabis concentrates they use. The symptoms are similar to most of the other diseases described here, including cough, shortness of breath and fever.
The good news is you can reverse hypersensitivity pneumonitis. You should start by avoiding the substance that caused the disease in the first place. Doctors prescribe steroids in some serious cases.
Giant-Cell Interstitial Pneumonitis
Exposure to certain metals — such as cobalt or tungsten — cause this particularly rare form of pneumonia. As a result, when exposed to these metals the body starts to produce giant cells which then fill up the air spaces of the lungs. This means that in order for people to contract the condition from vaping the vape juice or cannabis concentrates they’re using would have to be contaminated with a toxic metal. Symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath.This is another lung disease where simply getting away from the substance that caused the condition will do a lot. In advanced stages, however, it may be necessary to treat giant-cell interstitial pneumonitis with steroids and bronchodilators.