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A recherché progressive and chronic lung disease called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is now affecting thousands of people in the United States. What's shocking is that many dental professionals are also dying of this rare disease.
Out of the nearly 200,000 people in the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 9 out of the almost 900 IPF patients at the Virginia care center are male dental professionals- 8 dentists and 1 dental technician. That's around 1% of the total IPF patients at the same facility.
Though this figure seems immaterial at first look, thinking about the fact that merely approximately 0.038 percent of the total populace of the US are dentists, this 1% is something you need to worry about.
What is IPF?
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a mysterious and rare type of interstitial lung disease that can be treated but can't be cured. That only means that its signs and symptoms can be slowed down but it can't be totally healed.
It results in fibrosis or scarring of the lungs which can get worse over time. When the scarring worsens, it makes it hard for the lungs to take in enough oxygen and to transport the needed oxygen to the different vital parts of the body including the heart and brain. If this happens, the patient will struggle in taking in a deep breath. Until this moment, the specific cause of this mysterious disease is still unclear and not completely understood.
Symptoms of IPF
Patients suffering from IPF experience chronic dry cough, dyspnea (better known as breathlessness or shortness of breath), unexplained weight loss, clubbed toes or fingers, tiredness, and loss of energy, chest tightness or pain, joint and muscle pain, and loss of appetite.
Of these many symptoms, the most prevalent are breathlessness and chronic cough. Around 85% of the patients experienced chronic cough of no less than 8 weeks. Although most of them got a dry cough, some patients suffer from a cough with phlegm or sputum.
Patients also experience shortness of breath not only during extreme activities like running or performing exercise but also in doing day-to-day activities like climbing stairs, taking a bath or shower, and even when eating.
IPF among dental professionals
According to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released by CDC, dentists and other dental professionals are 23% more at risks to IPF than other people. Although the reason behind this mystery is still unknown, the report said that there might be something in the dental workplace environment that is harmful to the lungs.
Apart from the 9 affected dental professionals, of which 7 were already dead and 2 are dying, there are several more dental professionals who are seeking help and treatment at the facility.