Silicosis symptoms may occur from a couple of weeks up to many years after being exposed to silica dust.
Typically symptoms get worse over time as the lungs become scarred.
Difficulty breathing as an early silicosis symptom
A nagging cough
Later symptoms include the following:
Shortness of breath
What Causes Silicosis?
This condition is caused by being exposed to crystalline silica when grinding, drilling, cutting or chipping granite, sand, soil or other types of minerals. Silicosis can be caused by any occupation where the crust of the earth is disturbed. There is a very long list of various occupations that are well known to cause workers to be exposed to crystalline silica when it is inhaled. They include:
Steel industry work
Different types of mining, including hard rock and coal mining
What Are The Risk Factors For Silicosis
Silicosis is caused by breathing silica and being exposed to silica dust is the major risk factor.
Silicosis can be prevented by limiting exposure. National guidelines are available on the exposure limits for the overall lifetime of working.
When your work causes you to be exposed to silica dust, by law, your employer must provide you with the proper clothing and equipment to protect yourself. It is your responsibility to always use it and to take other necessary steps to get yourself protected as well as your family when you are leaving your job site and going home. It is recommended by NIOSH that a medical exam should be given prior to job placement or when the trade is entered, and then every 3 years at least thereafter.
Patients who have silicosis also have increased risks for other problems, like chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, and tuberculosis. If you smoke, it can help to quit, since the lungs are damaged by smoking.
When to Visit Your Doctor
Any individual who works in an industry that involves being exposed to inhaled silica should have checkups on a regular basis and be monitored for symptoms or signs of lung disease. Also if you have difficulty breathing, phlegm, or a cough that does not improve, your doctor should closely evaluate you. There are some people who have acute silicosis who also have fatigue, weight loss, and fever.