Published: Mon, March 12, 2018
Medicine | By Douglas Stevenson

What is IPF? Dentists are dying of this rare, incurable lung disease

What is IPF? Dentists are dying of this rare, incurable lung disease

IPF is a kind of lung disease that leads to lung scarring or fibrosis for reasons that are still unknown, according to the Lung Association.

Health authorities are trying to determine why dentists are dying, after discovering an unusual pattern in lung disease cases. Almost seven of the cases found dead due to lung disease, and due to chronic disease, two more patients found dying. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has found a pattern of American dentists dying from the lung disease idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

According to the CDC, nine dentists or dental workers have so far been diagnosed with the disease, called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, all of whom were treated at the same specialty clinic in Virginia.

While that does not sound like a lot, it represents 1 percent of the total IPF patients. Although the dentists only represented 1 percent of the number with the disease, only 0.038 percent of people in the US are dentists.

One questionnaire given to a living IPF patient before he died revealed that he cleaned and polished dental equipment and prepared amalgams and impressions without respiratory protection, the CDC study reported. "Substances used during these tasks contained ... known or potential respiratory toxicity".

The CDC said, "Although IPF has been associated with certain occupations, no published data exist regarding IPF in dentists". However, "dental personnel are exposed to infectious agents, chemicals, airborne particulates, ionizing radiation and other potentially hazardous materials".

Dentists experience inhalation exposures that can elevate their risk toward some respiratory diseases related to occupation. National Institutes of Health explain. Then the thickened lung tissue faces difficulties in ingesting oxygen into blood vessels and relieves the crucial organs such as heart and brain.

When there is no visible cause for this scarring, the condition is idiopathic.

There appears to be no recognizable cause for the cases with the dentists. It is, however, known that 75 percent of IPF patients are male and nearly all patents are more than 50 years of age. "Although no clear etiologies for this cluster exist, occupational exposures possibly contributed".

Symptoms of IPF include shortness of breath, dry, chronic cough, weight loss, fatigue, joint and muscle pains, and clubbed fingers or toes, Newsweek reported.

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