Silicosis is a lung disease caused by breathing in small bits of silica, which is a common material found in sand, quartz and other types of rocks. The disease is a type of pulmonary fibrosis, i.e a lung disease that damages and scars lung tissues, and typically affects people who are exposed to silica dust on a daily basis. This includes workers involved in construction and mining. Here is how silicosis develops: when silica dust enters the lungs, it causes inflammation, which slowly leads to the development of scar tissue. If you are a construction worker and have any symptoms relating to Silicosis it is recommended to see a Pulmonologist in islamabad.
Types of Silicosis
Silicosis develops in three ways. These are:
1. Chronic Silicosis
This takes place when you have been exposed to silica dust for more than ten years. The amount of silica dust is also an important factor, and the two forms of chronic silicosis are simple silicosis and progressive massive fibrosis.
2. Subacute Silicosis
This type of silicosis is also referred to as accelerated silicosis. This is because it happens over a short period of time, like two to five years.
3. Acute Silicosis
Acute silicosis can develop in a few months, and takes place if you have been intensely exposed to dust particles which are composed of a large percentage of silica.
Research shows that about 2.3 million workers in the US are exposed to silica in their workplace. The symptoms of silicosis can take many years to develop and it is also possible that you may not notice any signs until after you’ve stopped working with silica dust. However, even if you are no longer exposed to silica, your symptoms will still continue to worsen with time. Here are some common signs and symptoms of this condition:
- Persistent cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Weight loss
- Abrupt and sudden fever
- Chest pain
- Swollen legs
- Blue lips
To put simply, silicosis is caused by the damage done to your lungs when you breathe in silica dust. One of the main reasons for this includes an occupational setting. Silica is mostly related to the job you do. Research shows that if you work in the following industries, your chances of developing silicosis are much higher than other people:
- Mining and quarrying
- Pottery, ceramics and glass manufacturing
- Construction, building and demolition
- Foundry work
- Stone work; this includes stone countertop manufacturing and stone cutting, especially with sandstone
- Steel industry
- Road repair
- Plaster or drywall installation
Once you’ve developed silicosis, you are at a higher risk of getting other lung diseases like tuberculosis, flu and pneumonia. So make sure to be regular with your visits to the doctor in order to recover as soon as possible.
Silicosis can be diagnosed using these procedures:
- Chest X-ray or CT Scan
These can help check your lungs for scars.
This test involves running a long, thin tube with a tiny camera into your lungs to check for damage.
This test includes guiding a needle through your chest into your lungs to take a sample of a nodule. The sample is later checked with the help of a microscope to look for signs of silicosis.
- Sputum Test
This test is typically conducted to check for other lung diseases such as tuberculosis.
Silicosis has no cure. But there are some treatments that can help you manage the symptoms effectively. These include:
Medications such as inhaled steroids can help reduce lung mucus. Doctors also suggest using bronchodilators to help relax your breathing passages.
- Oxygen Therapy
This treatment uses a small, portable tank that can give you extra oxygen to aid in reducing fatigue.
- Lung Transplant
If your lungs condition continues to worsen and they get severely damaged, your Pulmonologist in Lahore may recommend getting a lung transplant. This is a major surgery which is typically used as a last resort.
To slow down the progression of Silicosis, you can also adopt some lifestyle changes. For example: if you’re a habitual smoker, your lungs can be damaged even more. So, avoiding cigarettes can be really helpful for you. If switching your job is an available option, it is advisable to find a job that doesn’t expose you to silica dust. Use appropriate protective equipments if you are unable to switch your job.