Silicosis

Silicosis

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Silicosis is the permanent scaring of the lungs caused by inhaling silica (quartz) dust.

  • Silicosis is the oldest known occupational lung disease. It develops in people who have inhaled silica dust for many years.
  • Silica is the main constituent of sand. It’s exposure is common among metal miners, sandstone and granite cutters, foundry workers and potters.
  • Silica dust, when inhaled passes into the lungs and scavenger cells like macrophages engulf it.
  • Enzymes released by the scavenger cells caused the lung tissue to scar.
  • At first, the scarred areas are tiny round lumps (simple nodular silicosis), but eventually they combine into larger masses (complicated silicosis).
  • These scarred areas cannot transfer oxygen into the blood normally.
  • As a result, lungs become less flexible and breathing takes more effort.

Symptoms

  • The symptoms usually appear after 20 or more years of exposure to the dust.
  • In occupations such as sandblasting, tunneling and manufacturing abrasive soaps, in which high levels of silica dust is produced, symptoms appear in less than 10 years.
  • The least serious type of lung disease from silica is simple nodular silicosis.
  • People with nodular silicosis have usually have no trouble breathing, but they may cough and produce sputum (phlegm) because their large airways are inflamed (a condition known as chronic bronchitis).
  • People who have more serious type, complicated silicosis, may cough, produce sputum and have serious shortness of breath.
  • At first, shortness of breath may occur only during exercise, but eventually it occurs even during rest.
  • Breathing may worsen for years even after a person stops working with silica.
  • The lung damage strains the right side of the heart and can lead to a type of heart failure (known as corpulmonale), which can be fatal.
  • Also, when exposed to the organism that causes tuberculosis, people with silicosis are many times more likely to develop tuberculosis than people without silicosis.

Diagnosis

  • Silicosis is diagnosed when someone working with silica has a chest x-ray that shows distinctive patterns of scarring and nodules.
  • Breathing tests are often performed to determine if lung function is impaired.

Prevention

  • Controlling silica dust in the work place is the key to preventing silicosis.
  • When dust cannot be controlled in industries such as sand blasting, workers should wear protective gears like hoods that supply clean external air or special masks that efficiently filter out the tiny particles.
  • Such protection may not be available to all the people working in dusty areas (welders and painters for example).
  • So, whenever possible, abrasives other than sand should be used.
  • Workers exposed to silica dust should have regular chest x-rays – every 6 months for sand blasters and every 2 to 5 years for other workers – so that the problems can be detected early.
  • If the x-ray shows silicosis, a doctor will probably advise the worker to avoid continued exposure to silica.

Treatment

  • Silicosis cannot be cured, but its progression can be slowed if exposure to silica is avoided, especially at an early stage of the disease.
  • A person who has difficulty in breathing, may benefit from the treatments used for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, such as drug therapy to keep the airways open and free of mucus
  • Because people with silicosis have a high risk of developing tuberculosis, they should have regular checkups that include a tuberculosis skin test.

People at risk

  • Lead, copper, silver and gold miners.
  • Certain coal miners like roof bolters.
  • Foundry workers
  • Potters
  • Sandstone or granite cutters
  • Tunnel workers
  • Workers who make abrasive soaps
  • Sandblasters
  • Tombstone makers

Click here to go to occupational lung disorders

Wikipedia

By |2018-07-14T13:30:44+00:00September 12th, 2017|Disease/pathological condition|2 Comments

About the Author:

B. Pharm (K.L.E. society's S.V.V. Patil College of Pharmacy, Bengaluru) M. Pharm (Maharishi Arvind Institute of Pharmacy, Jaipur)

2 Comments

  1. Fred Gilberts May 23, 2018 at 11:04 pm - Reply

    A CT scan in August of 2009 verified that I had Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. My first symptoms were cough and shortness of breath. I was on prednisone and inhalers. My blood oxygen level was 50 and i was extremely short of breath, i was barely able to breath. I went through cardio pulmonary rehab, It helped but not too long before all the severe symptoms returned. December last year, a family friend told us about Rich Herbs Foundation and their successful lungs disease treatments, we visited their website http://www.richherbsfoundation.com and ordered their IPF herbal treatment, i am happy to report this treatment effectively reversed my Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and symptoms. I am back on my feet, i walk daily now and has made me able to walk my two dogs again without shortness of breath or sudden loss of energy. My activity level is up again.

    • Dhruv Mangukia May 24, 2018 at 4:13 am - Reply

      Stop misguiding people.
      There are better ways to earn bread and butter.
      I am a pharmacist and I know what is fibrosis.
      I am not deleting your comment so that my readers can become aware of health scamsters like you.
      There is absolutely no way by which fibrosis can be reversed (as far as I know).
      only the progression of the lung scarring can be slowed, but that too only to a little extent.

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