The Lung Popcorn is a rare disease that causes scarring of the airway due to inflammation and possibly lung damage.

What is Popocorn Lung? 

The popcorn lung, known as Popcorn Lung, is a rare disease that damages the bronchioles, the smallest airways of the lungs. Over time, the inflammation associated with the popcorn lung causes scarring and narrowing of the lung tissues and airways, causing difficulty in breathing.

The Popcorn Lung takes its name from a chemical called diacetyl, which was once commonly used to give a buttery rich flavor to foods like popcorn. In fact, Popcorn Lung was first identified in popcorn factory workers who inhaled the chemical in the workplace.

The Lung Popcorn is also known under the name of bronchiolitis obliterans  or constrictive bronchiolitis . Popcorn Lung can be confused with another disease called Organized Lung Disease (BOOP).


Popcorn lung symptoms can be subtle and therefore easy to forget and the disease can be mistaken for other lung diseases. People with other respiratory conditions, especially chronic conditions such as asthma, may not be able to distinguish new symptoms from long-term pain.

Some lung infections can also be the cause. Symptoms usually appear within 2 to 8 weeks of infection or exposure to a chemical and slowly worsen over weeks or even months. Some people can develop Popcorn Lung after a transplant, but it can take several months or even years.

Some common signs and symptoms of popcorn lung include:

  • Wheezing that is not related to another health problem, such as bronchitis or asthma
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing deeply, especially during physical activities
  • Unexplained exhaustion
  • Rapid breathing
  • Persistent irritation to the skin, eyes, mouth or nose if caused by a chemical

People should also see their doctor if symptoms develop or if chronic symptoms worsen.

The causes

Chemical damage to lung tissue can cause Popcorn Lung , along with a few other factors. Although some inherited diseases can cause Popcorn Lung , it is not an inherited disorder. Inhaling harmful chemicals, particles or toxins can cause popcorn lung formation.

The main culprits are the food flavor fumes produced during the manufacture of candies, chips, popcorn and dairy products.

Other examples include:

  • Fumes from industrial or cleaning chemicals, such as ammonia or chlorine
  • Nitrous oxide, also called laughing gas
  • Metal fumes from construction activities, such as welding
  • Industrial air particles, such as complex dust
  • Certain viral or bacterial respiratory infections
  • Transplant
  • Immune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and hypersensitivity pneumonitis

Certain drugs such as penicillamine, 5-fluorouracil, and gold

Surgical transplants can cause a condition called transplant versus host, which occurs when the body refuses an organ transplant, especially after a lung, bone marrow, or stem cell transplant. This reaction can also lead to popcorn lung.


Steroids can be prescribed to treat popcorn lung. The scarring of lung tissue caused by popcorn lung is irreversible. Also, there is no cure for the disease once it develops and begins to constrict the airways. However, there are treatment options to manage or reduce symptoms and limit damage to the lungs.

It is essential to recognize the symptoms and diagnose popcorn lung at an early stage. As symptoms progress, the damage to the lungs becomes more severe and treatment becomes much more difficult. The type of treatment recommended depends on the cause and severity of the case. If the cases are due to chemicals or toxins, the person should immediately leave the environment where the exposure took place and not return to it.

Treatment options for Popcorn Lung may include:

  • Macrolide antibiotics for the treatment of bacterial respiratory infections may be effective in some people
  • Steroids, especially corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
  • Immunosuppressive drugs that reduce the activity of the immune system and limit inflammation
    supplemental oxygen
  • A medicine called Singulair(montelukast)which blocks specific immune cells that produce inflammation
  • A lung transplant for very severe cases

The long-term outlook for many cases of popcorn lung depends on the cause and how quickly the disease gets worse. Cases due to rheumatoid arthritis can have a particularly bad outcome. It’s important to work with a doctor to develop a treatment plan specific to the cause and other underlying health issues.

Popcorn Lung is also a major cause of death associated with heart and lung transplants. It is estimated that 50 to 60% of people who survive five years after a lung transplant have the most severe cases of popcorn lung.


The best way to prevent Popcorn Lung is to avoid damage to the lungs. It is essential to avoid the factors known to increase or cause the disease.

Ways to prevent the chances of developing a popcorn lung include:

  • Avoid areas or environments where it is possible to inhale chemicals or toxins, such as construction, demolition and manufacturing sites.
  • Watch carefully for symptoms that may develop after an organ transplant, especially a lung, heart-lung, bone marrow or stem cell transplant.
  • Wear protective respiratory equipment when exposed to environments where particles or toxins may be present in the air, such as deserts or heavily polluted areas. Various masks are available for purchase online.



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