Silicosis is a job-related lung disease caused by breathing in specks of mineral dust and considered to be a type of pneumoconiosis. This disease is especially caused by inhaling silica which is a mineral found in mineral ores and rock similar to quartz. Silica is abundantly found in clays, concrete, granite, sand, sandstone, slate and many other types of ore.
People who are exposed frequently to silica are more inclined to be stricken with silicosis. Those who work as miners and in constructions sites where sandblasting, demotion, rock drilling, concrete drilling and various other work relating directly to mineral ores and rock are the most likely candidates of falling ill with this disease. Further, silica miners, foundry workers, quarry workers and those involved in the production of ceramics, pottery or glass are also at a great risk of being struck with this deadly disease.
When a person falls ill with silicosis, the irritant that has been inhaled causes inflammation, and sooner or later tissues of the lungs will begin scar. Due to the inflammation changing to scar tissue takes a long time, a person who has been exposed to silica may not know the presence of the disease for months or years after initially inhaling the mineral. Nevertheless, once the tissues of the lungs are scarred, it is not reversible and the lungs can begin to harden. Once the lungs harden, the normal exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen interferes with lung functions. This leads to the patients’ being at risk of pulmonary tuberculosis, respiratory failure, and heart failure. Further, Silicosis can affect your immune system and reduce your body’s ability to fight infections.
There are many ways and means of preventing the development of silicosis.
- Wear protective gear such as a respirator, when working with materials that may contain silica.
- Wash hands and face soon after working with crystalline silica dust or visiting such an area.
- Take a shower and change into clean clothes before you leave the work place to avoid and prevent your car or home being contaminated.
- Available water spray and ventilation systems to be used when working in confined areas.
- The employer should provide respirators manufactured specially to protect against crystalline silica if water systems and ventilation are not up to required standard.
- Avoid working near or in dust polluted area whenever possible. Always remember that it is a risk although you may not see the dust.
- Take health and lung screenings offered by your employer.
Although there is no cure for silicosis at present, there are many optional treatments available to manage the condition and improve the quality of life of a person affected by the disease. Medical science has various treatments for interstitial lung diseases such as silicosis.
Oxygen solutions and therapy are helpful when the blood oxygen levels are low for patients suffering from silicosis. It increases the required oxygen to flow into your lungs and bloodstream and help to breathe and live longer.
Initially, it may be difficult to assess whether you have any form of silicosis as the diseases could be found out only after years of being riddled with it. Common symptoms are severe coughing, weakness, and shortness of breath.