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Definition

What is silicosis?

Silicosis is a condition which a lot of silica exists into your body by inhaling too much silica for a long time. Silica is a crystal-like mineral which is found in sand, rock, and quartz is very common. Silica can have deadly consequences for people whose jobs have to work with stone, concrete, glass, or other forms of rock. Day by day, exposure to silica particles causes the lungs to be scarred, which can harm your ability to breathe.

There are three types of silicosis:

  • Acute silicosis, which causes cough, weight loss, and fatigue within a few weeks or years of exposure to inhaled silica.
  • Chronic silicosis, which appears 10 to 30 years after exposure and the upper lungs can be affected and sometimes cause extensive scarring.
  • Accelerated silicosis, which occurs within 10 years of high-level exposure.

 

How common is silicosis?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of silicosis?

Symptoms of silicosis can occur from a few weeks to many years after exposure to silica dust. Symptoms will worsen over time as scarring in the lungs occurs.

Cough is an early symptom and develops over time with exposure to silica that is inhaled.

In acute silicosis, fever and sharp chest pain along with breathing difficulty will appear. These symptoms can come on suddenly.

Other possible symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Respiratory failure

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes silicosis?

Exposure to crystalline silica is the main cause of silicosis. In fact, silica comes from chipping, cutting, drilling, or grinding soil, sand, granite, or other minerals. Any occupation where the earth’s crust is disturbed can cause silicosis. The following list of occupations is known that expose workers to crystalline silica that is inhaled. These include:

  • Various forms of mining, such as coal and hard rock mining
  • Construction work
  • Tunnel work
  • Masonry
  • Sand blasting
  • Glass manufacturing
  • Ceramics work
  • Steel industry work
  • Quarrying
  • Stone cutting

Risk factors

What increases my risk for silicosis?

Factory, mine, and masonry workers are at the greatest risk for silicosis because they deal with silica in their work. People who work in the following industries are at greatest risk:

  • Asphalt manufacturing
  • Concrete production
  • Crushing or drilling rock and concrete
  • Demolition work
  • Glass manufacturing
  • Masonry
  • Mining
  • Quarrying
  • Sandblasting
  • Tunneling

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is silicosis diagnosed?

Having worked in an at-risk industry is the highest risk for this condition. Your doctor can suggest a chest X-ray which is crucial to diagnose the type of silicosis. Moreover, you will have a physical examination, for example lungs examinations. Your chest X-ray may be normal, or you may have a lot of scarring in the lungs. There may be a series of tests, such as:

  • Breathing tests
  • High resolution CT scan of the chest
  • A bronchoscopy to evaluate the inside of the lungs. This procedure is performed by passing a thin, flexible tube down the throat. The tube will attach a camera to allow the physician to view your lung tissue. Tissue and fluid samples can also be taken during a bronchoscopy.
  • A biopsy of the lungs

How is silicosis treated?

Silicosis doesn’t have any certainly specific medical treatment. The goal of treatment will be to reduce your symptoms.

Cough medicine can help reduce cough symptoms and antibiotics can help treat respiratory infections.

Inhalers can be used to open up the airways. Some patients wear oxygen masks to increase the amount of oxygen in their blood.

If you are diagnosed of silicosis, you should avoid further silica exposure. Quit smoking is the best way to protect your lungs from damage.

People with silicosis have a higher risk for tuberculosis (TB). You should be tested regularly for TB if you have silicosis. A physician can prescribe medications to treat TB.

Patients with severe silicosis may require a lung transplant.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage silicosis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with silicosis:

  • With workers, wear special masks called respirators can prevent them from inhaling silica. These masks may be marked for “abrasive blasting” use.
  • Water sprays and wet cutting methods reduce the risk of silica exposure.
  • Workplaces and environment should meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. This includes proper ventilation. Employers can monitor air quality at worksites to ensure that there’s no excess silica in the air. Employers must report all diagnosed incidents of silicosis immediately.
  • With dust which may contain silica, workers should eat, drink or smoke far away this condition.
  • Wash their hands before doing any of these activities to clear their hands of any dust.
  • Get yearly vaccinations, such as pneumococcal and influenza
  • Be vigilant about watching for the development of TB or other infections
  • Educate yourself about the disease
  • Consider enrolling in clinical trials
  • Have a plan to manage flare-ups of the disease.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: September 5, 2017 | Last Modified: September 5, 2017

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