Silicosis is a long-term lung disease caused by inhaling unsafe levels of silica dust, usually over a period of many years.
People who work with certain materials may inhale a very fine dust that contains silica. Once inside the lungs, the dust particles can scar the lungs. This scarring is known as silicosis. It isn’t contagious. It’s not caused by a virus or bacteria. You can’t get it from someone or give it to someone if you have it.
Silicosis can lead to breathing problems, a serious lung condition called Progressive Massive Fibrosis (PMF), or lung cancer. There is no cure for silicosis and it can be fatal
The 3 common types of silicosis are:
• Chronic silicosis — exposure to silica dust for more than 10 years
• Accelerated silicosis — exposure to silica dust for 3 to 10 years
• Acute silicosis — develops within weeks or months of exposure to silica dust
All 3 types affect you in the same way. The difference is how long it takes for problems to develop.
The main symptoms of silicosis:
• Persistent coughing.
• Coughing that brings up sputum.
• Inflammation (swelling).
• Fibrosis (scarring).
• Shortness of breath (dyspnea).
• Unintended weight loss.
Silicosis is your body’s reaction to silica dust buildup in your lungs.
When you breathe in silica, the tiny particles of dust settle deeply into your breathing passages. Scar patches form on your lung tissue. Scarring stiffens and damages your lungs, and this makes it hard to breathe.
Risk Factors –
If you work in the following industries, you’re more likely to develop silicosis than other people.
• Mining and quarrying.
• Construction, building and demolition.
• Stone work, including stone countertop manufacturing.
• Pottery, ceramics and glassmaking.
• Foundry work.
• Tuberculosis and other infections.
• Lung cancer.
• Chronic kidney disease.
• Chronic bronchitis.
• Autoimmune diseases like scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
Tests to help diagnose silicosis include:
• Chest X-ray or CT scan: This test checks your lungs for scars.
• Bronchoscopy: The doctor will run a long, thin tube with a tiny camera on the end into your lungs to check for damage.
• Biopsy: In a lung tissue biopsy, the doctor will guide a needle through your chest and into your lungs to take a sample of a nodule. They’ll check it under a microscope for signs of silicosis.
• Sputum test: This will help evaluate other lung diseases, like tuberculosis (TB).
The simplest steps include:
• Limit the time you’re exposed to silica.
• Wear a mask or other protective clothing while you work around it. Your employer is required to provide proper safety equipment.
Other ways to prevent silicosis on the job:
• Use blasting cabinets or proper ventilation.
• Use wet methods to cut, chip, or grind materials.
• Swap blasting material that contains silica for other types.
• Use respirators that protect you from inhaling silica.
• Don’t eat or drink near silica dust.
• Wash your hands and face before you eat.
• Shower and change clothes after work.
There’s no cure for silicosis right now. Treatments can help you manage your symptoms.
• Inhaled steroids reduce lung mucus.
• Bronchodilators help relax your breathing passages.
▪︎ Oxygen therapy
• This small, portable tank gives you extra oxygen to help reduce fatigue.
▪︎ Lung transplant surgery
• You may need this if you have advanced lung damage.
One major lifestyle change can help you manage this disease:
• Stop smoking: It’s dangerous if you have silicosis. It makes your lung damage even worse. Get help to quit. Avoid secondhand smoke and areas with a lot of dust, air pollution, and allergens if you can
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