Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis

Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis is a chronic inflammation of the lungs caused by an allergic reaction to repeatedly breathing organic foreign substances such as microbes, bacteria or fungi, in the workplace. Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis is difficult to diagnosis because most people do not realize they are sick. If they do notice their symptoms, it is easy to misinterpret them as a simple cough or other benign symptom.

Symptoms of Cutting Fluid Exposure & Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis

It is not uncommon for hypersensitivity pneumonitis to go undiagnosed because the initial symptoms are similar to a cold. Workers will sometimes decide to “tough it out” instead of going to the doctor. When they do, sometimes it is hard to diagnosis because it is a granulomatous disease, which often has radiologically normal tests.

Among cutting fluid diseases, hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) is a condition that involves the chronic inflammation of the lungs caused by an allergic reaction to inhalation of the cutting fluid mist. Symptoms of HP include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chronic cough
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (permanent scarring and thickening of the lungs)

Pulmonary fibrosis can develop in severe or untreated cases of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and can lead to serious and sometimes fatal health complications such as heart failure, lung failure, or even death.

Risk factors for cutting fluid diseases and hypersensitivity pneumonitis involve manufacturing workers who are exposed to metalworking fluids and already have other chest conditions such as asthma, bronchitis or pneumonia.

Diagnosing Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis

Why visit the doctor for a simple cough? A cough can be a precursor of a more serious ailment for someone who works around metalworking fluids or other toxic fluids. It is important to tell your doctor if you seem to experience repeated episodes of coughing or difficulty breathing after being exposed to certain environments.

However, hypersensitivity pneumonitis is a granulomatous disease, which means sometimes a person can test “radiologically normal.” This makes the disease harder to diagnosis and can result in long-term exposure.

If your doctor suspects you could have hypersensitivity pneumonitis he or she might listen to your lungs for abnormal lung sounds called rales or crackles. Then, he might conduct a chest X-ray to search for visible scaring or other abnormal signs on the lungs.

Other diagnostic tests might include:

  • Aspergillus precipitins test
  • High resolution CT scan of the chest
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis antibody panels
  • Pulmonary function tests
  • Video-assisted or open-lung biopsy

Treating Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis

The most effective way to treat hypersensitivity pneumonitis is to prevent a person from being exposed to the allergens that caused the initial allergic reaction. Most workers transfer to a job that does not require them to work around metalworking fluids.