Silicosis is a lung disease brought on by exposure to crystalline silica, primarily through the person's occupation, such as mining, quarrying, tunnelling, construction, drilling, sandblasting and grinding to make pottery items.
There are several different types of silicosis.
Acute silicosis occurs after relatively short term exposure to silica (anything from a few months to two years). Silica particles are inhaled and imbed themselves into the lungs, causing inflammation and scarring. Symptoms include: severe coughing, fever, weight loss, breathlessness and low blood/oxygen levels. On medical examination there will be fluid on the lungs.
Other types of silicosis are:
Asymptomatic or simple Silicosis - this is a very mild form of the disease that often has no symptoms at all. Sometimes there will be a persistent cough with mucus. Doctors can misdiagnose this condition due to it having similar symptoms to bronchitis;
Chronic, Complicated Silicosis - This is worse than the simple form. In addition to the mucus cough the sufferer will also lose weight and feel very tired. This can occur decades after the initial exposure; and
Accelerated Silicosis - this develops after a fairly short period of time (within 5 to 10 years). Symptoms are weight loss, weakness and tiredness and severe difficulty breathing.
Only people with an occupational history involving silica are considered to be at risk from silicosis. If you work in any of the above mentioned fields and you are suffering respiratory and other symptoms, your doctor can run tests confirm whether you have the disease. He will first examine you to see how well you can breath, your rate of breathing, whether you can expand your chest and your general condition.
Pulmonary Function Test - this will be done to see how much air is getting into your lungs. If you have decreased lung capacity, this is an indicator of silicosis
X-ray - a chest X-ray will be done to see the inside of the lungs. If there are nodules present, this is an indicator of silicosis; and
A CT scan can provide clearer images of the nodules to assist medical staff with your diagnosis.