Silicosis is a lung disease. It is caused by breathing dust that has crystalline silica in it. In acute silicosis, the disease happens after weeks or months of being around high levels of silica.
Silica dust can come from cutting, drilling, breaking, or grinding soil, sand, granite, or other items. The silica dust gets trapped in the lungs when it gets in the air that people breathe.
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The risk is higher in people who spend time around air that has silica dust in it. Jobs that involve these tasks also raise the risk:
- Sandblasting or rock crushing (for road base)
- Construction or masonry
- Wrecking and demolition
- Abrasive blasting
- Concrete or drywall finishing
- Mining or rock drilling
- Stone milling or cutting
- Sand and gravel screening
- Ceramics, clay, pottery, glassmaking
- Vitreous enameling of china plumbing fixtures
- Making soaps and detergents
Symptoms may appear within a few weeks to five years after exposure.
A person may have:
- Trouble breathing
- Weight loss
The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. The doctor may also ask about work history. A physical exam will be done.
Pictures may be taken to look for signs of damage. This can be done with a chest x-ray.
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There is no cure. The goal of treatment is to avoid silica dust so the lungs do not get damaged more. To help with breathing the doctor may advise:
The risk of this problem may be lowered by:
- Avoiding air that has silica dust in it
- Wearing a mask or respirator on the job to avoid breathing in air that has silica dust in it
- Working in well-ventilated places
- Silicosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/silicosis.
- Silicosis: learn the facts! National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-108.
- Silicosis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pulmonary-disorders/environmental-pulmonary-diseases/silicosis.
- James P. Cornell, MD
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