Silicosis – An Incurable Lung Condition - Dream Health

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Saturday, 6 September 2014

Silicosis – An Incurable Lung Condition

Silicosis, an incurable lung condition is caused by inhalation of crystalline silica dust which is found in certain types of stone, rock, clay and sand and is marked by inflammation and scarring in the form of nodular lesion in the upper regions of the lungs.

It could be a kind of pneumoconiosis.Silicosis was earlier used in 1870 by Achille Visconti prosector in the Ospedale Maggiore of Milan and the recognition of respiratory problems from breathing in of dust dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans.

While working with these materials which could create fine dust known as respirable crystalline silica, it could be inhaled easily. Once these dust particles get into the lungs, it is attacked by the immune system causing inflammation or swelling which leads to gradual hardening and scarring lung tissue or fibrosis. This eventually affects the proper function of the lungs.

Those who work in construction and demolition are prone to exposure to bricks, mortar, and concrete while people connected to potter, ceramics and glass manufacturing, mining, quarrying, sand blasting and stone cutting could also be at risk of being the victim of Silicosis.

Shortness of Breath/Tiredness/Weight Loss…

The early stages of silicosis are cough with shortness of breath and as the disease progresses it could cause weight loss, with extreme tiredness, wheezing at times, and swollen fingers. Though it takes several years of exposure to silica dust before the symptoms show up, most of the people developing silicosis could have been exposed to low amounts of dust for many years without being aware of any danger to their health.

In these cases, doctor would refer these cases as simple chronic silicosis. It could also occur after exposure to larger quantity of silica over a shorter time span though this is quite unusual. Acute silicosis which is the result of short term exposure to large amount of silica is very rare and in these instances, the cough and the shortness of breath could appear within a few days or weeks of exposure to silica followed by tiredness, weight loss and wheezing which could develop with a few months or years.

In some rare cases, the lungs tend to become severely scarred which is known as progressive massive fibrosis. This leads to shortness of breath which could get worse and also increase the risk of other complications

Precautions to be taken 

Diagnosis is carried out with the help of x-ray of the chest to check for abnormalities in the structure of the lungs, a computerised tomography or CT scan of the chest to obtain more detailed images of the lungs andtesting of lung function with the help of spirometry which involves breathing into a machine to assess the working condition of the lungs.

The person could also be asked to take a skin test for tuberculosis known as Mantoux test which involves injecting a substance called PPD tuberculin in the forearm. Though there is no cure for silicosis since the damage to the lungs cannot be repaired, treatment could relieve some of the symptoms and improve the life of the person.

Precautions need to be taken to avoid exposure to any more silica, quit smoking if one is a smoker, and have regular skin test to check for tuberculosis since silicosis is more prone to tuberculosis and other infections.

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