What you need to know about bronchiolitis obliterans

On Behalf of | Jun 28, 2024 | Asbestos |

Bronchiolitis obliterans, often called “popcorn lung,” is a serious and irreversible lung disease. This condition involves inflammation and scarring of the smallest airways in the lungs. This inflammation leads to their obstruction. Understanding bronchiolitis obliterans is crucial, especially for people with specific exposures.

Causes and symptoms

Several factors can lead to the development of bronchiolitis obliterans. This includes inhaling harmful chemicals such as diacetyl, an additive in microwave popcorn flavoring. Respiratory infections like adenovirus or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can also cause the disease.

The symptoms can be similar to other respiratory diseases. This makes it difficult to diagnose. If you have a persistent cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, or unusual fatigue, seek medical advice.

Asbestos exposure and bronchiolitis obliterans

Exposure to asbestos is another significant risk factor for developing bronchiolitis obliterans. When inhaled, asbestos fibers can cause severe damage to lung tissue.

Exposure risks are higher for construction workers, especially those working in renovation. Long-term exposure to asbestos not only increases the risk of bronchiolitis obliterans but also other severe lung conditions.


Diagnosing bronchiolitis obliterans involves a series of tests. It’s critical to rule out other conditions and confirm the presence of the disease. Common diagnostic procedures include pulmonary function tests, CT scans, and lung biopsies.


There is no cure for bronchiolitis obliterans. However, treatments can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Treatment options may include corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, oxygen therapy, and pulmonary rehabilitation to improve lung function.

Prevention tips

Preventing bronchiolitis obliterans involves minimizing exposure to known risk factors. Here are some tips to help reduce your risk:

  • Avoid inhaling fumes from chemicals, especially in the workplace
  • Use protective equipment if you work in industries where chemical exposure is a risk
  • Ensure proper ventilation in areas where chemicals are used
  • Get vaccinated against respiratory infections and practice good hygiene to avoid infections

Protecting your lung health

Understanding the causes, symptoms, and prevention of bronchiolitis obliterans is critical for managing and mitigating the risks associated with this disease. Staying informed and taking proactive steps can help protect your lung health and overall well-being.