Silicosis is a persistent disease of the lungs caused by prolonged and excessive exposure to crystalline silica dust. When inhaling crystalline silica dust, the lung tissues will respond by forming fibrotic nodules and cause scarring. Enlargement of the nodules will result to difficulty in breathing and eventually death.
People affected by silicosis are susceptible to develop tuberculosis. Pneumoconiosis is a disease due to inhaling mineral dust. Damage to the kidney and other health problems can be due to lengthy exposure to silica.
What are the types?
- Chronic – develops after 10 or more years of exposure to crystalline silica with lower concentrations.
- Accelerated – due to exposure to high concentrations of silica which develops 5-10 years after exposure.
- Acute – due to exposure to a very high concentration of silica and symptoms develop within a few weeks and even 4-5 years after exposure.
Symptoms of silicosis
- Severe shortness of breath when exercising
- The ear lobes or lips becomes bluish in color
- Fatigue, lethargy and general weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Chest pain
- Respiratory failure and eventually death
- Severe dry cough with phlegm
- Loss weight
- Oxygen therapy which can be short or long term. The person is placed in a mechanical ventilator or a portable oxygen machine to lessen the symptoms.
- Use a bronchodilator to increase the amount of air that can be breathed in.
- Take the prescribed antibiotics to lessen the risk for chest infections especially if coughing up phlegm.
- Quit smoking to prevent further damage and worsen the condition. Minimize exposure to second-hand smoke to prevent irritation on the lungs. Avoid respiratory allergens such as pet dander, strong fragrances and plant debris. Minimize exposure to dust particles, outdoor and indoor pollution.
- Put water in a pot and bring to a boil and let it cool for a few minutes. Cover the head with a towel and hold the head at least 6 inches from the water and breathe in the steam to lessen breathing difficulties, phlegm and coughing.
- Take plenty of fluids especially water to produce loosen the phlegm and improve coughing.
- A respiratory might be used to filter silica dust and lessen the risk of complications due silicosis. The mask should properly seal over the mouth and nose.
- Use a wet saw if work involves cutting concrete blocks to dampen and lessen potential inhalation of silica dust.