Pneumoconiosis is a group of lung diseases caused by inhaling certain mineral dusts. The most common mineral dust to affect the lungs, silica (quartz) dust, produces silicosis. Silicosis produces a chronic inflammation of the lung.
Causes of Silicosis
Silicosis is caused by the chronic inhalation of small particles of free crystalline silica (silicon dioxide). It usually takes 20 to 30 years of exposure for onset of symptoms, but occasionally this disorder can be fatal in a year or two when exposed to high concentrations of silica dust in confined spaces. In the U.S., somewhere between one and three million people probably have some form of this disease. The occupations that cause it include mining, stonecutting, abrasives, foundry work and quarrying.
Signs and Symptoms of Silicosis
Rarely will the symptoms of silicosis develop in less than one year. Usually, they develop after many years of exposure to silica dust. Shortness of breath and cough develops. These are chronic conditions that gradually worsen. There is usually no significant production of sputum. As the disease progresses, the above symptoms worsen. Coughing up blood may occur. Chest pain and hoarseness may develop. Due to impaired oxygen exchange in the damaged lungs, the nails may appear blue, a rapid heart beat develops and the skin may appear pale.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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