Hypersensitivity pneumonitus is a unique lung disease occurring in people who have sensitivities or allergies to particular irritants or allergens. Anything from fungus to animal dander can be the culprit. It is caused by someone’s lungs being triggered by an irritant, and worsened when the individual continues to be exposed to the irritant over time.
Hypersensitivity pneumonitus, in its acute phase, can show up as much as 4-6 hours after the exposure to the dust, making the source harder to identify at times. Chills, fatigue, a non-productive cough, tightness in the chest, fever, and shortness of breath are all common symptoms.
These symptoms can last from half a day to up to 10 days, as long as there is no repeat exposure. If, on the other hand, there is repeated exposure, the symptoms begin to worsen.
A chronic productive cough can develop, even producing pus. There may be a loss of appetite followed by weight loss. Shortness of breath may become a regular daily symptom as well. The doctor may hear crackling in the lungs, when the patient breathes.
Doctors will test for the presence of hypersensitivity pneumonitus by using a chest X-ray, lung function test, a CT scan, blood tests, or even a lung biopsy. The irritant can be identified by examining recent exposure history, such as the workplace, and testing the irritant in the doctor’s office to see if it causes a reaction.
There is no cure for hypersensitivity pneumonitus, but steroids can relieve the symptoms of attacks of the disease. After total relief from exposure, the symptoms may clear up after three weeks, if the process was caught early enough for the lungs to fully heal. The best treatment for hypersensitivity pneumonitis is permanent avoidance of the irritating substance.
Information on this page is for reference and educational purposes only. For more information about hypersensitivity pneumonitus, talk to your doctor or primary care provider.