Alveolitis Symptoms and Treatment
Alveolitis is an inflammation of the small air sacs (alveoli) where the gas exchange between blood and air takes place. The alveolitis develops in many cases of occupational origin. Farmers who inhale dust from moldy hay are often affected.
What is Alveolitis ?
Alveoli are small bubbles inside the lungs. An adult lung contains about 400 million of these alveoli. They form an area of about 100 square meters for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
Oxygen in the inhaled air is taken into the blood and carbon dioxide is discharged from the blood into the air in alveoli. Lungs are inflamed by some factors. It represents an allergic response to proteins or fungal spores (allergens), organic dusts (exogenous allergic Alveolitis, EAA). Immune system reacts incorrectly fungal spores or animal proteins in the dust.
A alveolitis may occur suddenly with severe symptoms or progress slowly over a longer period with different complaints. EAA (exogenous allergic Alveolitis) is a relatively rare disease. Most often,it is called’’bird fancier’s lung , farmer’s lung and humidifier lung’’.
Bird fancier’s lung: In this form of EAA is an allergy to bird droppings and bird proteins of budgies, canaries, pigeons and chickens. Also the contact with proteins of rodents can trigger an EAA.
Farmer’s lung: The farmer’s lung is the second most common form of extrinsic allergic alveolitis. It is caused by an allergic reaction to mold spores in moldy hay.
Humidifier lung: Interiors with humidifiers or air conditioning may cause humidifier lung. Smallest water droplets may be contaminated with fungal spores inside of humidifiers or air conditioning.
Chemical substances: Spray paints, two-component adhesive and polyurethane foam-producing chemical substances can trigger an alveolitis.
EAA often occurs six to 16 hours after contact with the allergen. Sufferers feel sick, have body aches, cough and shortness of breath. Sometimes occurs fever. The nose and throat is inflamed as a cold. The symptoms can be easily confused with pneumonia. If allergen contact is interrupted,allergen problem decreases within two to four days. Sometimes, symptoms can last for weeks.
Alveolitis Causes and Risk Factors
A alveolitis can occur due to an allergic reaction to proteins or mold spores. First, the immune system for a particular allergen such as mold spores is sensitized. It produces antibodies against them. If the spores inhale again, the immune system is triggered to react response as an inflammatory in the alveoli. There are more than 300 allergens known that can trigger a hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
Although the disease is rare, but it occurs more often in high-risk groups such as bird breeders or farmers. Smokers develop more rarely an EAA which causative reasons are unknown.
Alveolitis Investigation and Diagnosis
If symptoms of the disease occur, you can consult an occupational health professional or a pulmonologist at first. A rapid diagnosis is important to treat quickly and prevent long-term damage to the lungs.
Doctor may ask you at initial interview;
- What is your profession?
- How long do you make your profession?
- What is your hobby?
- Do you suffer already lung or skin diseases or allergies?
After these questions , doctor will start to examine patient as physical.
If there is suspicion of a pulmonary disease , an X-ray or computed tomographic image has to be done. Here you can already get important information to a lung disease.
Bronchoalveolar lavage is an investigation in which the alveolitis can be diagnosed safely. For this purpose, bronchoscope with a rigid or a flexible hose with a built-in camera, on the nose or the mouth is inserted into the respiratory tract. By the bronchoscope passes inside the doctor rinses liquid into the lungs and follows it. The liquid obtained can be further investigated in the laboratory.
Pulmonary function test
Using a lung function examination, it is checked whether or not and how severe the lung function is affected by the alveolitis.
Certain values may be elevated in blood which indicate an allergic reaction, or an inflammation.
In an advanced stage of the disease, sometimes a small sample of lung tissue must be removed and examined under the microscope to confirm the diagnosis.
First, patient should have no further contact with the allergen. Dust masks and protective suits are obligation for people who are concerned. Also structural changes, hay drying or maintenance of the air conditioning needs to be taken as a safeguard measure. In some cases, change of job is necessary.
Inhalation of cortisone
A alveolitis must be treated as quickly as possible. In many cases, is treated with cortisone to stop the inflammatory process as quickly as possible. If breathing is difficult, a cortisone inhalation spray can help better. Partially other drug inhibitors of the immune system such as azathioprine or cyclophosphamide must be used to stop the inflammatory process.
Alveolitis Disease Progression and Prognosis
If it is possible for the people who are concerned to avoid the allergens which cause EAA , disesase often heals by itself. If the disease is discovered late without any treatment , lung structure may take permanent damage. The lung structure thickens and lung becomes less elastic (pulmonary fibrosis). The heart must pump at a thickened lung structure against a higher resistance. This may also cause damage heart in the long run.
How to Prevent Alveolitis
You should prevent to fungal spores multiply in your enviroment. In humidifiers, air conditioning or indoor fountain fungi can grow very well. Mattress should ventilate again and again.You should also need occupational health checks to prevent alveolitis.