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Silicosis

Silicosis is a form of occupational lung disease caused by inhalation of crystalline silica dust, and is marked by inflammation and scarring in the form of nodular lesions in the upper lobes of the lungs.  It is a type of pneumoconiosis.  Silicosis (particularly the acute form) is characterized by shortness of breath, cough, fatigue, fever, and cyanosis (bluish skin).   Silicosis is the most common occupational lung disease worldwide.  It has resulted in 46,000 deaths globally in 2013.  Silica is one of the most common minerals on earth, and is commonly contained in a wide variety of materials and products.  Dust from the crushing or breaking of sand or rocks may include silica particles.  Because of work-exposure to silica dust, silicosis is an occupational hazard.  Many workers in the oil fields, refineries, construction, mining, demolition, plumbing, painting, sandblasting, quarry, ceramics, foundry workers, fiberglass manufacturing, flint knappers and others have been exposed to dangerous levels of silica dust.  These particles cause silicosis, which is a serious lung disease that often is misdiagnosed.   Silicosis can result in a wide variety of very severe health conditions, including heart disease, airflow limitation, respiratory insufficiency, blue skin, and a wide variety of various lung diseases, and potentially even lung cancer.  Your doctor will need to take chest x-rays and carry out lung function tests in order to give you a diagnosis.

Classification of silicosis is made according to the disease’s severity (including radiographic pattern), onset, and rapidity of progression which including:

Chronic simple silicosis:  Usually resulting from long-term exposure (10 more years or more) to relatively low concentrations of silica dust and usually appearing 10-30 years after first exposure.

Accelerated silicosis:  Silicosis that develops 5-10 years after first exposure to higher concentrations of silica dust.  Symptoms and x-ray findings are similarly to chronic simple silicosis, but occur earlier and tend to progress more rapidly.

Complicated silicosis:  Silicosis can become “complicated” by the development of severe scarring (massive fibrosis or also known as conglomerate silicosis) where the small nodules become confluent, reach a size of 1 cm or greater.

Acute silicosis:  Silicosis that develops a few weeks to 5 years after exposure to high concentrations of respirable silica dust.  Symptoms of acute silicosis include more rapid onset of severe disabling shortness of breath, cough, weakness, and weight loss, often leading to death.

Signs and symptoms

  • Shortness of breath-exacerbated by exertion
  • Cough, often persistent and sometimes severe
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid breathing which is often labored
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chest pain

Diagnosis:

There are three key elements to the diagnosis of silicosis.  First, the patient history should reveal exposure to sufficient silica dust to cause this illness.  Second, chest imaging (usually chest x-ray) that reveals findings consistent with silicosis.  Third, there are no underlying illnesses that are more likely to be causing the abnormalities.

Treatment:

Silicosis is a permanent disease with no cure.  Treatment options currently available focus on alleviating the symptoms and preventing and further progress of the condition.

Managing Disease:

  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid further exposure to silica
  • Protective measures such as respirators have brought a steady decline in death rates due to silicosis in Western countries.

 

If you have been diagnosed with Silicosis, please call or email us immediately.  We are ready to fight for your rights and get you the compensation and help you deserve. This is a serious disease and you do not need to go it alone!

 

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