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Appalachia Health News tells the story of our health challenges and how we overcome them throughout the region. 

Nicotine May Help Treat a Particular Type of Lung Disease

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Lung experts at Ohio State University Medical Center are testing whether nicotine can help people with a particular type of chronic inflammatory lung disease called sarcoidosis. If left untreated, sarcoidosis can cause severe lung damage and even death.

It is not completely understood why patients develop the disease, but some experts think it may happen when your immune system responds to a trigger, such as bacteria, viruses, dust, or chemicals.

Unlike most lung diseases, the main symptom isn’t shortness of breath, but debilitating fatigue. Current treatments for the disease have side effects such as osteoporosis, cataracts, diabetes or high blood pressure that experts say are often worse than the disease itself.

So doctors are testing whether nicotine patches, normally used to help people stop smoking, may be a potential treatment for the disease. Research published in the early 2000s found that nicotine itself is anti-inflammatory and that smokers are less likely to get sarcoidosis than non-smokers.

Researchers say the initial, small study of using nicotine patches to treat sarcoidosis showed some promise. Now, Ohio State, in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic, is conducting a larger, randomized trial in hopes of producing more definitive data.

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