Acute Silicosis is a respiratory disease caused by inhalation of silicon dioxide or crystalline silica without adequate protection.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Silicosis is lung inflammation caused by intense exposure to silica over several months, whereas chronic Silicosis is slowly progressive lung scarring, nodules, and inflammation resulting from decades of exposure to silica dusts. The disease occurs mainly in people who work in sandblasting, mining, quarrying, grinding, and those who work in foundries. The incidence of Silicosis is decreasing due to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations requiring the use of protective equipment.
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
Signs and tests
Examination may show a bluish coloration (cyanosis) of the mucous membranes. Often, abnormal lung sounds can be heard with a stethoscope.
Possible tests include the following:
- Chest x-ray that may show lung scarring, inflammation, and nodules (Sometimes, an enlarged heart and dilated pulmonary arteries can be seen.)
- Pulmonary function tests
- Arterial blood gases that show low concentration of oxygen
- Chest CT scan
- Lung biopsy
- Bronchoscopy with bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL)
- Sputum analysis
There is no specific treatment for Silicosis, as the fibrotic (scarring) process is thought to be irreversible. Not being exposed to silica is important to minimize progression of the disease.
Supportive treatment includes cough suppression medications, bronchodilators, and oxygen if needed for Shortness of breath. Antibiotics are prescribed for respiratory infections as needed. All Silicosis patients should be screened for Tuberculosis and treated if indicated.
The outcome is often rapidly progressive respiratory failure possibly resulting in death.
Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have an occupational exposure to silica and symptoms develop.
If you work in a high-risk occupation, wear a dust mask and do not smoke. Other protection such as respirators may be indicated.
by Martin A. Harms, M.D.
All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.