What is Silicosis & How Does it Affect Our Body?
Silicosis is a pathological condition of lungs which is caused by inhalation of silica on a chronic basis. This condition develops after chronic exposure to silica over a period of years. People who work in the mines or in construction are at increased risk for developing Silicosis.
What Is Silicosis?
Silicosis as stated is a disorder of the lungs which is caused by chronic inhalation of silica dust. Silica is a mineral which is found in abundance on the earth's crust and is present in sand, rocks, and ores. People working in industries where they can be exposed to silica dust are at an increased risk for developing Silicosis. Common occupations where people can be exposed to silica dust are sandblasting, mining, and construction. When inhaling silica dust over a prolonged period of time, this silica causes fluid buildup and scar tissue in the lungs and reduces an individual's ability to breathe.
Silicosis Has Been Divided Into Three Categories:
- Chronic Silicosis: This is the most common type of Silicosis and develops after approximately 10+ years of exposure to silica dust.
- Accelerated Silicosis: This type of Silicosis occurs after 5-10 years of exposure to silica dust.
- Acute Silicosis: This type of Silicosis can occur after only a few weeks or months of exposure to very high levels of silica dust. This type of Silicosis is very serious and can be fatal within months of diagnosis.
How Does Silicosis Affect Our Body?
Usually, silica dust reduces the ability of the lungs to function appropriately: Each category of Silicosis affects the body in a different way:
- Simple Chronic Silicosis & Its Effect on the Body: In this type, the silica dust causes swelling in the lungs and chest lymph nodes resulting in difficulty breathing.
- Accelerated Silicosis & Its Effect on the Body: In this type of silicosis, the swelling and scarring of the lungs occur at a relatively rapid pace and there is observation of symptoms quicker.
- Effects of Acute Silicosis on the Body: In this type, the lungs get inflamed and get filled with fluid resulting in severe shortness of breath and low levels of oxygen in the blood.
Who Is At Risk For Developing Silicosis?
The People At Risk For Developing Silicosis Are:
- Construction workers, especially those working in highway construction, and construction and demolition of buildings
- Abrasive blasting
- Working with concrete
- Drywall finishing job also puts you at risk for developing silicosis
- Drilling rocks
- Rock crushing.
Is Silicosis A Serious Disease?
Silicosis is a medical condition which does not have a cure as yet. Treatments are aimed at calming the symptoms down and treat infections arising due to this disease. The survival of an individual with Silicosis depends on the type of Silicosis that individual is suffering from and may vary from years to months.
What Are The Symptoms Of Silicosis?
Some Of The Symptoms Of Silicosis Are:
- Shortness of breath
- Severe chronic cough is also one of the symptoms of Silicosis
- Severe weakness
- Unintentional weight loss
- Night sweats
- Chest pain
- Respiratory failure.
How Is Silicosis Diagnosed?
To diagnose Silicosis, the treating physician will take a detailed history including occupational history and then conduct a physical examination. If Silicosis is suspected then the following tests may be carried out:
- Chest X-ray
- Pulmonary Function Tests
- TB Blood Test.
What Are Treatments For Silicosis?
As stated above, there is no cure for Silicosis and treatment is aimed at calming down symptoms and treating symptoms that arise due to complications of the disease.
Some Measures Which May Be Taken For Relief Of Symptoms of Silicosis Are:
- Use of cough medications
- Use of bronchodilators to open up the airways so that breathing becomes easier in patients suffering from Silicosis
- Oxygen therapy to increase oxygenation in the blood
- Antibiotics may be used for treating infections
Additionally, individuals who have been diagnosed with Silicosis need to get checked for tuberculosis routinely, and treated for it if found, as they are at an increased risk for getting this disease.
How Can Silicosis Be Prevented?
Some Of The Measures That A Person Can Take To Avoid Getting Silicosis Are:
- Avoiding working around dust is one of the best ways to prevent silicosis
- Awareness about presence of Silica dust in the workplace and avoiding that place
- Use water sprays and appropriate ventilation when at work at confined or small places.
- Apart from this, the employers are instructed to provide safety measures for workers who may be exposed to silica dust while working
- Avoid eating, drinking, or smoking in dusty areas.
- Wash hands thoroughly before eating in dusty areas.
- Try and use disposable work clothing.