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What is Pneumoconiosis?*
Pneumoconiosis refers to a group of Interstitial Lung Diseases that result from inhaling certain types of dust particles causing damage to your lungs. The disease develops over the course of years and is often referred to as an occupational disease.
Black Lung falls under this category as do other illnesses of the lung.
What Are the Symptoms of Pneumoconiosis?
Symptoms associated with pneumoconiosis depend on how severe the disease is and may be influenced by what type of dust particle caused the disease. Symptoms may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Large amounts of phlegm
When you notice these symptoms, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention.
What Are the Causes of Pneumoconiosis?
Pneumoconiosis is caused by inhaling dust and other particles over a long period of time. The lungs may not be able to get rid of the particles sufficiently causing prolonged irritation and inflammation. . If you have worked around any of the following, you may have an increased risk of pneumoconiosis:
- Coal mines
- Textile mills
- Diacetyl (a compound that gives movie popcorn its buttery flavor)
- High levels of dust in the air
Even if it’s been years since you worked in these types of environments, you should still seek medical assistance if you experience the symptoms of pneumoconiosis. The symptoms may take years to develop, so they might show up long after you’ve moved on from your job.
How is Pneumoconiosis diagnosed?
The first clue to diagnosing pneumoconiosis type and severity is discussing work and lifestyle history. Your physician will note if you have been exposed to dust, asbestos or other chemicals. Furthermore, he or she will order some tests to confirm your diagnosis.
These tests may include some of the following:
- Physical examination
- Chest x-ray
- CT scan
- Pulmonary function test
- Listening to the lungs for obstruction
If you work in an environment with prolonged exposure to dust, chemicals and asbestos, you should have your physician perform regular exams to monitor your health and catch pneumoconiosis early if it develops.
How is Pneumoconiosis treated?
Pneumoconiosis cannot be cured. The goal of treatment is to keep the disease from getting worse and managing your symptoms.
Depending on the severity of your condition, your age and your overall health and well-being, a treatment plan may include:
- Not smoking if you are a smoker
- Avoiding all dust exposure
- Bronchodilators – these are medications that can help relax airways and improve your ability to breathe
- Oxygen therapy – this is supplemental oxygen, which may be prescribed for certain times of the day or throughout the entire day depending on the lack of oxygen your COPD is causing
Even with treatment, pneumoconiosis may worsen.
Complications may include:
Progressive respiratory failure
Is Pneumoconiosis preventable?
Prevention is important since the disease cannot be reversed.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets standard prevention rules which include:
- Wearing a mask if your work exposes you to dust and chemicals
- Washing areas of skin that come in contact with dust
- Safe removal of dust from clothing
- Washing face and hands thoroughly before eating, drinking, or taking any medication
- Not smoking
- Letting your doctor and your employer know about any symptoms of pneumoconiosis
- Getting regular chest x-rays and physical exams if you are at risk for developing any form of pneumoconiosis
We’re Here To Help
Would you like to speak with a Patient Care Specialist at Centers for Respiratory Health about pneumoconiosis? Whether you’re experiencing symptoms or would like to know more about prevention, we’re available to talk with you. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.