Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is triggered by inflammation of the alveoli in the lungs due to high sensitivity after inhaling organic dust in the workplace or during hobbies.
In the initial phases, the individual will not experience any issues but as time passes due to chronic exposure, respiratory symptoms will arise. The alveoli become inflamed and there is buildup of fluid in the air sacs. As the exposure increases, the condition flares-up which causes the formation of scar tissue in the lungs that disrupts with normal functioning of the lungs.
What are the possible causes?
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is triggered by inhaling of particles that the body is allergic to. This typically occurs over an extended period of exposure to the allergen that can span for several years. Generally, those who work in areas where there is abundant dust that might contain mold or fungus are at risk.
The condition can also develop among those who utilize humidifiers or air conditioners that were not properly serviced or maintained. Even bird droppings can also the condition.
Is it serious?
At the present, there is no available cure for hypersensitivity pneumonitis but luckily it can be reversed if exposure to the allergen is stopped.
Long-lasting inhalation of the allergen can lead to scarring of the lungs or pulmonary fibrosis. Once this occurs, damage to the lungs becomes permanent and the treatment is aimed on managing the symptoms.
What are the indications of hypersensitivity pneumonitis?
The indications of hypersensitivity pneumonitis are categorized into 3 types – acute, subacute and chronic.
The symptoms start to develop within 6 hours after being exposed to the allergen and can include cough, fever, chills, shortness of breath, chest pressure and headache. The symptoms might take several days to settle until exposure is stopped.
In the subacute form, the symptoms include shortness of breath, productive cough, lethargy and weight loss. The symptoms are less severe than the acute form but lasts longer.
There is spontaneous onset of cough, lethargy, progressive shortness of breath and weight loss. In such instances, avoiding further exposure is required. In some cases, inspiratory crackles can be noted.
The objective of treatment for hypersensitivity pneumonitis is to identify it in the early phases since it can be reversed if diagnosed and treated early.
In the chronic phases, the symptoms should be controlled and this includes steroids. Cessation of smoking is vital if the individual is a smoker since it can worsen the condition and lead to serious complications such as chronic bronchitis or emphysema.