Pneumoconiosis refers to lung disease resulting from the inhalation of dust. The dust being extremely fine gets deposited deep inside the lung, damaging it over time. The dust can be organic, inorganic, or even a chemical irritant.
As these dust particles are usually inhaled at the workplace, pneumoconiosis is also considered an occupational lung disease. The pneumoconiosis types and their severity depends on the kind of dust one inhales, its amount, and the time of exposure.
Silica, a type of inorganic dust, causes pneumoconiosis among people involved in occupations like sandblasting, quarrying, mining, etc.
Other inorganic kinds of dust include clay, coal dust, graphite, iron, tin, etc. Asbestos and aluminium dust is known to cause more severe diseases.
Exposure to organic dust such as malt, mould from sugarcane, hay, mushrooms, cotton, and flex fibres over a long period of time can lead to lung damage and pneumoconiosis.
Inhaling fumes of chemical agents like nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, chloride, and ammonia, tend to irritate the lung lining, resulting in lung damage and pneumoconiosis symptoms.
Pneumoconiosis develops when one inhales dust particles over a long period or inhales huge amounts of dust in a shorter period.
When someone breathes in dust particles like asbestos, coal dust, silica, etc., these particles go deep down into their air sacs and settle down.
The body perceives these particles as intruders and tries to get rid of them by triggering an immune response. Slowly, the inflammatory process develops surrounding these foreign particles. If the inflammation is severe, the area becomes thick, and scar tissue is formed, known as lung fibrosis.
Pneumoconiosis can be classified according to the type of dust the person inhales. The primary three pneumoconioses are silicosis, asbestosis, and coal dust pneumoconiosis.
Breathing coal dust results in coal dust pneumoconiosis or black lung disease. Similarly, breathing cotton fibres causes brown lung disease. Finally, silicosis is caused due to the inhalation of silica and asbestos dust contributes to asbestosis.
Another classification of pneumoconiosis is simple and complicated pneumoconiosis, categorised according to the severity of the disease.
In simple pneumoconiosis, a small scar resembling a thick nodule is observed on the chest x-ray, while in complicated pneumoconiosis, the patient’s chest x-ray exhibits massive scarring in the lungs.
The symptoms of pneumoconiosis vary according to the severity of the disease. In the early stages of the disease or in the case of mild disease, patients may not experience any type of symptom.
Symptoms may start appearing once the disease has progressed after long exposure to dust. Some of the common pneumoconiosis symptoms are as follows:
- Yellow or green sputum
- Chronic cough
- Difficulty in breathing
- Chest pain or tightness
- Wheezing sounds while breathing
- Fluid buildup in the lungs
If individuals are involved in an occupation that entails continued exposure to dust, developing pneumoconiosis is a distinct possibility. Regular tests and monitoring are advised, which will help patients stay aware of the condition of their lungs.
Those who have developed pneumoconiosis symptoms must get in touch with their healthcare provider. We will take the following steps to diagnose your condition:
- Perform a thorough physical exam.
- Ask you questions about the symptoms, the complete history of the development of these symptoms, and other details.
- May order:
- Certain blood tests
- Chest x-ray or CT scan of the chest
- Pulmonary function test
- Lung biopsy
Pneumoconiosis does not have any cure. However, the disease can be managed symptomatically to help improve the patients’ quality of life.
We may also recommend certain lifestyle changes that are helpful in preventing further lung damage:
- Use of bronchodilators or steroids in the form of inhalation to reduce inflammation and open the airways.
- Those with severe disease may require oxygen therapy during sleep, activity, or the entire day, depending upon the symptoms.
- Quitting smoking is a must.
- Some exercise programmes might help increase lung capacity and exercise tolerance.
- If there is extensive lung damage, we may advise a lung transplant.
Prevention of pneumoconiosis is very important as the disease is incurable and cannot be reversed. Following are some preventive measures that may help protect individuals from the disease:
- Wearing a respirator mask to avoid dust inhalation during work
- Washing hands and face thoroughly before eating or drinking to avoid exposure to dust
- Avoiding smoking
- Safely removing dust from clothes
- Getting regular check-ups and x-rays
- Getting flu vaccines annually to protect from influenza and respiratory complications
Pneumoconiosis is an incurable disease. Once affected, patients have to learn to live with it. If you have any pneumoconiosis symptoms, visit the nearest CK Birla Hospital or book an appointment with Dr Kuldeep Grover.
We have state-of-the-art infrastructure and a dedicated department to manage such pulmonary conditions. Our team of expert pulmonologists use advanced tools and technology to diagnose the disease swiftly and start treatment right away to help protect your lungs from further damage.
We will also guide you on how to manage pneumoconiosis symptoms and advise certain lifestyle changes and preventive measures to help improve your quality of life.