EVALI: A New Disease Affecting Smokers

E-cigarettes were originally invented as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes. However, recent research shows that smoking electronic cigarettes, more commonly known as vaping, has its downsides and poses risks.

Dr. Anastasia


New reality and new diseases

In August 2019, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the US started recording cases of serious lung issues in people who smoked electronic cigarettes. Thousands of people needed therapy and hospitalization. Some of the cases even resulted in death. Researchers connected these cases with vaping, and the lung injury caused by vaping products has become known as EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping use associated with lung injury). In the United States, there have been 2,807 hospitalizations and deaths recorded for issues associated with EVALI across all 50 states.

First symptoms of EVALI

Although researchers have found that this pathology is related to vaping, they are still unsure about the exact nature of the disease. It is assumed that respiratory inflammation results from some aerosol components used for e-cigarettes. While medical experts are trying to find the causes of this disorder and its long-term consequences, it is advisable to watch out for early symptoms of EVALI, which could help identify the cause.

Symptoms of EVALI can include issues with breathing and digestion, fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing and shortness of breath, chest tightness, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.

Some people develop their first symptoms over several days, while in others, it may take several weeks for symptoms to appear. The disease leads to serious respiratory injury. As a result, patients may even need intensive therapy and positive end-expiratory pressure mechanical ventilation.

Who is at risk?

Anyone who has smoked for 90 consecutive days is at risk, irrespective of his or her age or presence of chronic medical conditions. It is noteworthy that the average age of EVALI patients is 24 years old. This is because vaping products are most popular with younger people.

The risk increases if the product used contains vitamin A acetate, which is the chemical that was found in the lungs of people suffering from EVALI. Vitamin E acetate (the derivative of vitamin E) is normally used for thickening liquids, especially for e-cigarettes and vaping products containing THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), a psychoactive ingredient of marijuana that causes the effect of feeling high.

The main danger of vaping lies in its ability to clog bronchial tubes, cutting off the supply of oxygen and decreasing oxygen saturation below 93 %.

What to do if you experience EVALI symptoms

If you vape and find yourself experiencing the above symptoms, you should immediately consult with a physician for medical tests. These tests will rule out other diseases such as bacterial or viral pneumonia through an X-ray of the chest or computer tomography. Since healthy cells are saturated with air, they look dark. Those with EVALI will have cloudy spots on the X-ray.

Doctors can help reduce respiratory inflammation and provide positive end-expiratory pressure therapy in serious cases. It is not recommended to continue smoking electronic cigarettes after the end of therapy. The best solution for avoiding the risks of EVALI is to quit vaping.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html

29 June 2021

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