PNEUMOCONIOSIS

  • A general term given to any lung disease caused by dusts that are breathed in and then deposited deep in the lungs causing damage.
    • After the dust particles land and settle in the lung, the lung tissue may try to get rid of the dust particles or try to surround them to prevent them from causing damage. Cells from your immune system travel to these affected areas of lung, and inflammation develops as it tries to fight the dust particle. In some cases, the inflammation is severe enough to cause scar tissue to form. The formation of scar tissue in the lung is called fibrosis. If the inflammation or fibrosis is severe enough or involves a large enough area of lung tissue, breathing will be affected. Dry cough and shortness of breath are common symptoms of fibrosis.
    • Usually considered an occupational lung disease because exposure to the dusts that can cause pneumoconiosis often are found in the workplace.
  • Different types of dust cause different types of pneumoconiosis; however, not all types of dust are known to cause pneumoconiosis.
    • Exposure to asbestos, silica, and coal dust are the most common causes of pneumoconiosis. Most types of dust are not known to cause pneumoconiosis.
  • There is no cure for pneumoconiosis, but it can be prevented with appropriate respiratory protection.
  • The severity of pneumoconiosis varies widely depending on the type of dust, how much of the lungs are affected and how intense the dust exposure was.
  • May have no symptoms at all, particularly early in the disease.
    • Symptoms can include:
      • Cough, with or without mucous (sputum) production
      • Chest tightness
      • Shortness of breath
    • If pneumoconiosis involves a large part of the lungs or causes a lot of scarring, oxygen may be prevented from easily reaching the blood during breathing.
      • This results in hypoxemia (low blood oxygen levels). Hypoxemia may only be present during activity or while sleeping. Hypoxemia may be present all the time if pneumoconiosis is severe or progresses. Many patients with hypoxemia do not know that their oxygen levels are low because hypoxemia itself does not always cause symptoms like breathlessness.

DIAGNOSIS

  • Physician may do/request:
    • History & Physical Exam
  • Other additional tests such as:
    • Pulmonary function tests (breathing tests)
    • Chest X-ray or CT scan (“CAT scan”) of the chest.
    • Lung biopsy

 

RECOMMENDED MEDICATIONS

  • No specific treatments or medications for pneumoconiosis, and there is no cure.
    • Most treatments for patients with pneumoconiosis are aimed at limiting further damage to the lung, decreasing symptoms and improving quality of life.
  • Patients may be treated with inhaled medications (inhalers) if they have symptoms of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • A pulmonary rehabilitation program may be recommended to improve a patient’s ability to exercise.
  • Oxygen is prescribed if patients have a low oxygen level.
  • Lung transplant

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