Pneumonia symptoms

Lipoid pneumonia: symptoms, treatment, and more

Lipoid pneumonia, or lipid pneumonia, is a rare disease that occurs when oil or fat enters the lungs. Lipoid means relating to fat.

Symptoms are similar to more common forms of pneumonia and include a cough, high fever, and shortness of breath. Lipoid pneumonia can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are nonspecific.

Rest and medication at home will be sufficient to treat some cases of lipoid pneumonia, but severe cases may require hospital treatment. Doctors treat most cases of lipoid pneumonia with corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation in the lungs.

Keep reading to learn more about lipoid pneumonia, including the causes, symptoms, and treatment.

Pneumonia is a serious lung disease. The cause of most cases of pneumonia is a bacterial, viral or fungal infection, which causes swelling of the air cells in the lungs.

However, the cause of lipoid pneumonia is fat, which enters the lungs causing symptoms similar to other forms of pneumonia.

Unless a bacterial infection is also present, antibiotics will not be effective in treating lipoid pneumonia. Doctors usually use corticosteroids to treat the condition instead. The immune system fights disease and creates inflammation in the lungs. Corticosteroids work by suppressing the immune system to reduce inflammation.

Lipoid pneumonia is the body’s reaction to fat in the air sacs of the lungs. The air sacs ignite, causing them to fill with fluid. Inflammation makes it harder to breathe.

There are two forms of lipoid pneumonia: exogenous and endogenous. An exogenous case of pneumonia is one that has an external cause, while an endogenous case has an internal cause.

Exogenous lipoid pneumonia

Exogenous lipoid pneumonia occurs when particles of fat enter the lungs from outside the body. Fat usually enters the body through the mouth or nose.

The causes of exogenous lipoid pneumonia include:

Electronic cigarettes

In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported five people who developed lipoid pneumonia after using electronic cigarettes. The electronic cigarettes contained marijuana oil. The individuals inhaled the oil into the lungs, which resulted in lipoid pneumonia.

Inhale oil-based products

Another cause of exogenous lipoid pneumonia is inhalation of oil-based products. Oil-based products in the workplace pose a health risk if a person inhales them. Using a face shield and ensuring the work area remains well ventilated can reduce the risk.

Oil extraction

Oil extraction is a practice in alternative medicine. A person injects oil into the mouth for the purpose of improving dental health. There is little evidence of the benefits of oil extraction. A 2015 study discovered that oil extraction was the cause of two cases of lipoid pneumonia. Some of the oil entered the lungs and caused inflammation.

Other causes

Most cases of the disease are related to specific products or actions. A 2013 study reported the case of a woman who developed lipoid pneumonia after applying baby oil inside her nose for several years.

A 2012 study found that a fire-eater developed the disease after inhaling liquid paraffin.

Endogenous lipoid pneumonia

Endogenous lipoid pneumonia, also called cholesterol pneumonia, is less common than exogenous lipoid pneumonia. It develops when body fat accumulates in the lungs.

This fat can appear as a lump when a person has a CT scan. By removing and examining the nodule, a doctor can diagnose lipoid pneumonia.

The cause is most likely a blockage in the lungs which leads to inflammation, causing the body to make too much cholesterol in response. Cholesterol is broken down and accumulates in the air sacs of the lungs.

Symptoms of lipoid pneumonia are similar to those of more common forms of pneumonia. They include:

  • a persistent cough
  • shivering
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • fever

In people who develop lipoid pneumonia after using electronic cigarettes, symptoms may also include vomiting, nausea and stomach pain.

The disease can progress slowly as fat builds up in the lungs. A person may have difficulty breathing before other symptoms develop.

Lipoid pneumonia is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to those of other forms of pneumonia. Because of this, it is easy to miss completely or to diagnose incorrectly.

A person may not get a correct diagnosis until treatment begins. CT scans or surgery can reveal inflammation or fat particles in the lungs.

Doctors often use a CT scan to diagnose any serious lung condition. He uses x-rays to see inside the lungs and give a picture.

Endogenous lipoid pneumonia can be misdiagnosed as lung cancer. The accumulation of fat in the lungs may show up as a cyst or a nodule on a CT scan.

A doctor may need more information about lifestyle factors or recent behavior to make a diagnosis. If a person has breathed oil into their lungs, it may be the cause of pneumonia.

People with certain underlying health conditions may be at higher risk for endogenous lipoid pneumonia.

For example, researchers have suggested that Hodgkin lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis have links to the disease.

Information about existing medical conditions can therefore help a doctor diagnose lipoid pneumonia.

If a person has an underlying health problem, pneumonia can be more serious. The person may need treatment in hospital.

Since lipoid pneumonia is so rare, there is no agreed guidelines for treatment. Most treatments include corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. In some cases, a person can develop a lung infection. The most common treatment for this is an antibiotic.

Doctors have used whole lung lavage – a method of physically removing fat from the lungs – to treat lipoid pneumonia. The procedure uses general anesthesia and involves repeatedly flushing the lungs with sterile saline. The process is complete when the saline solution comes out of the lungs clear and free of fat particles.

A person usually needs treatment on one lung at a time, with at least 2 weeks between treatments. This waiting period gives the first lung time to heal, which helps with breathing while the second lung is being treated.

Once they can leave the hospital, a person can recover at home. They will usually need to continue taking medication, often corticosteroids. Rest is important for a full recovery from pneumonia.

Pneumonia can be serious, especially in the elderly or people with underlying health conditions. The disease can have complications, such as lung abscesses or pleurisy.

Getting plenty of rest will help a person recover. Some people will feel better within a week, but for others it may take longer. Most people should recover from pneumonia within a month, but some may continue to feel tired after symptoms subside.

Lipoid pneumonia is a rare disease with a limited amount of research. As a result, there is little information on how many people contract the disease and recover. However, those in the case studies we discussed above all recovered from the disease after treatment in hospital.

Lipoid pneumonia is a very rare disease and there are two main types.

Most cases are related to exposure to petroleum or petroleum-based products. This exposure can occur in the workplace or from the use of oils in the nose or mouth. Using electronic cigarettes with flavored oils may present certain risks.

The severity of symptoms varies among individuals, but people with severe symptoms usually require hospital treatment. Although there are no agreed guidelines for treatment, corticosteroids are generally effective.

Most of the case studies of people with lipoid pneumonia indicated that they had fully recovered.