Description, Causes and Risk Factors:
Silicosis is a respiratory disease caused by breathing in (inhaling) silica dust.
Chronic silicosis may take 15 or more years of exposure to develop. There is only mild impairment of lung functioning. Chronic silicosis may progress to more advanced forms.
Acute silicosis develops within six months to two years of intense exposure to silica. The patient loses a great deal of weight and is constantly short of breath. These patients are at severe risk of TB.
In the States & Germany occupational exposure to silica occurs in many industries. In particular, individuals in the following industries and occupations are often exposed.
Construction workers involved in highways, tunnels, cement, plastics, rubber and tile.
Flint workers (breaking, crushing or grinding flint).
Workers manufacturing china or earthenware.
Glass industries (unloading, storage and mixing of silica sand).
Mining, quarrying, loading or transporting of silica work or sand.
Intense exposure to silica can cause disease within a year, but it usually takes at least 10 - 15 years of exposure before symptoms occur. Silicosis has become less common since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created regulations requiring the use of protective equipment, which limits the amount of silica dust workers inhale.
The prognosis for patients with chronic silicosis is generally good. Acute silicosis, however, may progress rapidly to respiratory failure and death.
Early symptoms of silicosis include shortness of breath after exercising and a harsh, dry cough. Patients may have more trouble breathing and cough up blood as the disease progresses. Congestive heart failure can give their nails a bluish tint. Patients with advanced silicosis may have trouble sleeping and experience chest pain, hoarseness, and loss of appetite. Silicosis patients are at high risk for TB, and should be checked for the disease during the doctor's examination.
Occupational history and chest radiographs are usually sufficient for diagnosis of uncomplicated silicosis. Biopsies may be performed when the diagnosis is unsuspected (as in mixed dust disease or silicatosis) or for a complication (cancer vs. a conglomerate lesion of PMF).
Chest x rays will usually show small round opaque areas in chronic silicosis; the round areas are larger in complicated and accelerated silicosis.
Lung function tests.
A detailed occupational history.
There is no specific treatment for silicosis. Removing the source of silica exposure is important to prevent the disease from getting worse. Supportive treatment includes cough medicine, bronchodilators, and oxygen if needed. Antibiotics are prescribed for respiratory infections as needed.
Treatment also includes limiting exposure to irritants, quitting smoking, and having routine tuberculosis skin tests.
People with silicosis are at high risk for developing tuberculosis (TB). Silica is believed to interfere with the body's immune response to the bacteria that cause TB. People with silicosis should have skin tests to check for exposure to TB. Those with a positive skin test should be treated with anti-TB drugs. Any change in the appearance of the chest x-ray may be a sign of TB.
Patients with severe silicosis may need to have a lung transplant.
NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.
DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.
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