Medical scans show the damage vaping could do to your body, including blisters and lung collapse

Business Insider US
Getty Images

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported 450 cases of possible vaping-related lung illnesses. Six people have died, but experts still can't explain what's happening.
  • Symptoms of vaping-related lung illness include shortness of breath, fever, nausea, gastrointestinal issues, and weight loss. The symptoms can appear days or weeks after vaping as well as in people who have vaped for years.
  • These images show some of the lung damage linked to vaping, including collapsed lungs, and what medical professionals know about what may be causing it.
  • For more stories go to

The number of possible vaping-related illnesses continues to grow, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcing that at least 450 total possible cases of vaping-related lung illnesses had been reported across 33 states this year.

Deaths have been tallied in Minnesota, California, Oregon, Illinois, and Indiana.

"While the investigation is ongoing, CDC has advised that individuals consider not using e-cigarettes, because as of now, this is the primary means of preventing the severe lung disease," Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman of the CDC said on a September 6 call with reporters.

It's still not clear what's causing these life-threatening lung issues, but they tend to sprout up in a matter of days or weeks after people use e-cigarettes, though some of the people who've gotten sick said they'd been vaping for years before they fell ill.

Here are some of the images doctors and researchers have obtained of lungs believed to be damaged by vaping, and what experts think what might be going on.

A California teen had surgery to remove a blister that resulted in a collapsed lung after using a marijuana vape he bought at a concert.

Courtesy of Dr. Junaid Khan

Junaid Khan, a heart and lung surgeon in Oakland, California, said he completed surgery on an 18-year-old young man who suffered a blistered lung.

The patient had what's called a pneumothorax, or collapsed lung, a dangerous problem in which air leaks into the space between the chest wall and the lung, making it hard to breathe. This can happen when blisters pop up inside the lungs.

"I can't prove to you this was related to vaping," Khan previously told Insider, but said he had a hunch the injury was related to a marijuana device the patient had bought just a few months earlier.

The patient had trouble breathing, but is recovering after a surgery to remove the blister and relieve air in the lungs, allowing them to expand normally.

Khan added that he thinks this will be the first of many vaping-related issues he encounters.

"It's on the verge of becoming a public-health crisis," he said. "When I'm seeing these people, it means they're needing surgery. That's pretty dramatic."

Researchers studying vape-related injuries found a pattern of similarities.

A group of researchers reviewing more than 30 cases of vaping-related injuries found many patients had similar patterns of damage to their lungs, including inflammation, damage to the alveoli (or the lungs' air sacs), and particles of fat in lung tissues known as lipiod pneumonia.

Some of the injuries may be related to inhalation of oils included in the "e-juice," the vaporised substance that carries nicotine or THC into the lungs.

A young patient could have died from severe inflammation and respiratory distress likely related to vaping.

Photo courtesy of NYU Winthrop

Doctors found inflammation, believed to be linked to vaping, rapidly spread throughout the lungs of an 18-year-old patient at NYU Winthrop in Mineola, Long Island, New York.

The patient was initially admitted with chest pain, fever, and coughing, and was discovered to have acute respiratory distress and fluid in his lungs, Melody Pirzada, pediatric pulmonary chief at the hospital, told Insider.

"This patient was actually in a lot of pain and needed to be connected to life support," she said. "With the great work of our ICU team, we were able to save this patient. But once you come to this point, the chance of dying can be as high as 70%."

An image of a teen vaper's collapsed lung went viral, although there may be other explanations for his injury.

Chanca Ammirata via Twitter

Chance Ammirata, an 18-year-old former vape user, shared a viral photo of his lung on social media, alleging that the partial collapse and mysterious black dots pictures were due to vaping.

It's difficult to prove his injury was caused by vaping, highlighting the uncertainty that still surrounds the seeming epidemic.

Professor Robert Tarran, who studies vaping at the University of North Carolina Marisco Lung Institute, told Insider that Ammirata's injury may not have been caused by vaping and said it's "very hard" to prove a cause and effect relationship.

Tarran explained that spontaneous pneumothorax occurs when blebs, or small pockets of air in the lungs, break off, causing the lung to collapse. The condition is particularly common among tall, skinny males, although doctors don't know why.

Still, the lack of certainty around what caused the condition doesn't mean vaping is safe.

"There is no doubt that vaping is doing stuff to people, but it's not clear what," Tarran said.

Ammirata's photo was shared by more than 41,000 people on Twitter, and a petition he launched to stop vaping has earned more than 4,000 signatures online.

Receive a daily email with all our latest news: click here.

Also from Business Insider South Africa: