Silicosis is a lung disease caused by breathing in silica dust. It is also a group of medical conditions called pneumoconiosis caused by breathing in dust particles.
According to experts at UEW Healthcare, silicosis can develop in three major ways. One way is through chronic silicosis. This happens when exposed to breathable dust for ten years or so. It can be into two forms: progressive massive fibrosis and simple silicosis.
Another way is through sub-acute silicosis. This happens over a short period, like three to five years. Although the time is often shorter, your exposure will be heavier.
Lastly, it is through acute silicosis. You get this kind of disease by being exposed to particles quickly. The particles are often made up of silica.
Causes of Silicosis
The disease is usually caused by getting exposed to silica dust, which is borne from working with different minerals, such as granite, sand, or soil. When you drip into these minerals, the dust permeates the air. This is common in some industries, like the following:
- Ceramic or glass manufacturing
- Masonry or construction
- Mining or quarrying
Symptoms of the disease often appear after several years of exposure. In the early stages, symptoms of silicosis are mild and may include shortness of breath, sputum, and cough. And if the scarring worsens, real signs of a health problem can be a severe cough or abnormal chest pain.
Once lung scarring becomes severe, a variety of symptoms can appear. These can be bronchitis-like symptoms, like persistent cough and difficulty breathing. Some people also suffer from night sweats, bluish discoloration of lips, leg swelling, weakness, fever, and fatigue.
A doctor can tell you about your work history and symptoms during your appointment. Then, your doctor will examine and listen to your lungs using a stethoscope.
It is important to talk to your doctor about your exposure to silica dust and if you used safety equipment, like a face mask. For a thorough assessment, your doctor will send you for tests like the following:
- CT scan of the chest to produce detailed images of the lungs.
- Chest x-ray to check for abnormalities in the lungs.
- Spirometry or lung function testing to determine how properly your lungs work.
- Bronchoscopy that involves a doctor running a thin, long tube using a tiny camera on the end of a patient’s lungs.
Currently, this disease has no cure, and once damages are done, you can’t reverse them. Usually, treatment for the disease aims to slow its progression and relieve symptoms.
Treatment also involves avoiding more exposure to silica dust as well as irritants like cigarette smoke. Testing for TB is vital too as the illness is more severe in patients with silicosis.
The Bottom Line!
When dealing with materials containing silica dust, it would be best to know the risk factors. And to be safer, it is advisable to be aware of all the materials you work with and be familiar with ways of preventing silica dust from spreading further.