Pneumoconiosis is a lung disease caused by years of breathing in tiny dust particles that are small enough to reach your lung’s alveoli, or air sacs. Once there, these particles cannot be removed and their accumulation triggers inflammation. As a result, scarring and thickening of the lungs occurs, what’s referred to as fibrosis. Eventually, a build up of fibrosis can interfere with your lung’s ability to supply your body with oxygen.
Pneumoconiosis is typically an occupational related lung disease found in those who work with a variety of materials, such as asbestos, coal dust, graphite, silica, talc, kaolin, mica, flint and metal dusts. A couple of occupations for which breathing in dust may be routine are coal miners, quarry workers, sandblasters, road construction and building construction. Your risk of getting pneumoconiosis largely depends on how long you are around the offending particles.
The two main symptoms of pneumoconiosis are chronic cough and dyspnea. Pneumoconiosis is classified into two forms: simple and complicated. If you have the simple form, your symptoms will likely be mild. Should you suffer from the complicated form, your shortness of breath progressively worsens and it tends to lead to or increases your risk for some serious complications, for instance:
- lung cancer
- cor pulmonale
- respiratory failure
- pulmonary tuberculosis
- COPD (emphysema or chronic bronchitis)
If your pneumoconiosis is caused by coal dust and it occurs with rheumatoid arthritis, your condition is referred to as Caplan syndrome. Those with asbestosis are most in jeopardy of developing lung cancer. And although smoking does not increase your risk of developing this lung disease, it definitely can worsen your symptoms.
There is no cure for pneumoconiosis because the lung damage is permanent. Treatment of this respiratory disease is to avoid breathing in any further dust particles, along with managing symptoms and potential complications.
Measures you can take to prevent this lung disease is by never working in excessively polluted air and wear protective masks when you do.