At a silicosis it is a lung disease. It occurs in particular in the context of occupational diseases and is increasingly widespread in developing countries where occupational safety is only low.
What is Silicosis?If the silicosis is not treated, it will eventually result in death from suffocation. Accordingly, diagnosis as early as possible is crucial.
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A silicosis comes about due to quartz particles. If these are inhaled at regular intervals and in higher doses, the lungs change pathologically. Ultimately, the symptoms result in a serious illness of the respiratory system. Because this is made of quartz, it is also known as Quartz dust lung designated.
The workplace is particularly often to blame for silicosis. If it has a high level of quartz in the form of dust, the occurrence of the disease cannot be ruled out. Companies at risk are sectors such as mining or diamond grinding. Accordingly, silicosis is one of the occupational diseases. The risk of developing the symptoms outside of the workplace is very low.
Working in the mining industry increases the concentration of quartz dust in the air. If this is inhaled, the particles enter the person's lungs. The dirt remains in the tissue, whereupon the organism signals the presence of foreign bodies. Accordingly, the cells try to repel the particles. However, because the dust particles are very small, they can usually penetrate into the alveoli.
Finally, more antibodies are produced, as is usual in the context of a healthy immune system in the case of invading pathogens. The immune cells attack the dust particles and want to destroy them in this way. Ultimately, however, the immune cells fail to eliminate. Instead, the cells die and the dust particles get back into the lungs. Further antibodies are dedicated to the foreign particles, which leads to another death.
This is how the number of dead cells ultimately accumulates in the area of the lungs. The body reacts by inflaming the lungs, which in turn makes more connective tissue cells. In the further course the silicosis ends in a fibrosis. Fibrosis permanently restricts the functionality of the lungs.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
The first appearance of symptoms depends mainly on the specific concentration of quartz in the air. Years or just a few months can pass before the disease manifests itself for the first time. At the same time, the late symptoms cause far-reaching consequences: as soon as they occur, the silicosis is often well advanced and some therapeutic approaches can no longer be used.
Ultimately, those affected notice a dry cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, weight loss, a slight fever, dry cough and joint pain as part of the disease. The dry, irritating cough usually remains permanent and cannot be treated by taking expectorants or similar drugs. Shortness of breath is particularly noticeable during physical exertion.
For example, those affected quickly become breathless when climbing stairs. If the disease is already well advanced, gasping for air can also occur at rest. In some cases the penetration of oxygen is only possible after a few unsuccessful breaths. As a result of the lack of oxygen, the lips and fingers turn blue.
Diagnosis & course of action
If the silicosis is not treated, it will eventually result in death from suffocation. Accordingly, diagnosis as early as possible is crucial. However, because the symptoms often only become apparent late and at the same time could indicate other diseases, the diagnosis is often only confirmed in cooperation with several specialists.
Precise information from the patient about his workplace is particularly important here. The breathing can then be monitored and the function of the lungs checked. Finally, tissue samples can be taken as part of a lungoscopy. The examination of the cells in the laboratory provides further information about the possible presence of silicosis.
Silicosis can have some complications. The extent of this depends on whether it is an acute or chronic form of quartz dust lung. Acute silicosis, for example, often results in death, which can be attributed to the rapidly spreading weakness of breath. With a chronic course, the symptoms usually only show up after several decades of exposure to quartz dust.
Pulmonary fibrosis only rarely shortens the life expectancy of those affected. However, due to the quartz dust lung, there is an increased susceptibility to external infections. Prompt treatment is therefore required to avoid further breathing problems.
Tuberculosis (consumption) is one of the complications of silicosis. The patient has a thirty-fold increased risk of illness. If on the one hand a silicosis and also a tuberculosis is diagnosed, then in medicine one speaks of a silicotuberculosis.
Further possible sequelae of quartz dust lung are chronic airway inflammation. They occur mainly in people who work in coal mining. Because the respiratory tract can no longer free itself sufficiently from the quartz dust, this leads to the development of inflammation. This creates more mucus and narrows the windpipe.
As a result, the air can no longer be sufficiently exhaled. There is a risk of emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The sequelae of silicosis also include connective tissue diseases, Caplan syndrome, which is a mixture of quartz lung and rheumatoid arthritis, and lung cancer.
When should you go to the doctor?
Silicosis usually always requires medical treatment. Since this disease cannot heal itself, the person affected is always dependent on medical treatment to prevent and limit further complications. In the worst case, the symptoms of silicosis can lead to death of the person affected if the disease is not treated. A doctor should be consulted if the patient has severe breathing difficulties. This leads to a dry cough and furthermore to shortness of breath. People also experience severe fatigue or weight loss due to the difficulty breathing.
Exhausting activities can hardly be carried out anymore, so that those affected are significantly restricted in their everyday life due to the silicosis. Pain in the joints or fever can also indicate the disease and should also be examined by a doctor.
The diagnosis of silicosis can usually be made by a family doctor or an ENT doctor. Further treatment depends largely on the severity of the disease. Complete healing cannot be achieved.
Therapy & Treatment
The earlier the diagnosis begins, the more effective the therapeutic approaches. New tissue is created through the formation of connective tissue cells. At the same time, the inflammation of the lungs leads to scarring of the organ. If scarring and new tissue formation progress, the function of the lungs is restricted. The creation of both components cannot be reversed.
The same is true for silicosis as a whole. It is a disease that cannot be cured according to current medical standards. However, treatment to alleviate the symptoms is possible. The basis of the therapy is based on the effort to prevent or at least slow down the further development of scars and tissue. Avoiding further quartz particles is particularly important here. Accordingly, those affected usually have to change their profession.
If the lungs were to continue to be exposed to quartz pollution, the disease often cannot be stopped. At the same time, treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms caused by silicosis. Inflammation is treated with cortisone, and chronic oxygen deficiency is compensated for with long-term oxygen therapy.
Those affected receive oxygen through tubes. The device remains connected for up to 16 hours and ensures that patients can overcome light exertion without shortness of breath. Some people with the disease must have a lung transplant to prevent silicosis from leading to death.
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Silicosis can be prevented. The most effective way of doing this is to avoid workplaces that are highly exposed to quartz dust. If no quartz dust is buried, the particles cannot get into the lungs and thus endanger health. Workers who are already employed in the affected sectors should ensure that they wear adequate protective clothing.
In order to improve well-being, it is advisable to avoid environments during follow-up that are rich in pollutants and whose pollutants can easily find their way into the lungs. The consumption of nicotine, both actively and passively, should be avoided entirely. In addition, areas should be avoided in which, for example, gases or dyes are particularly easy to inhale.
The supply of oxygen-rich air is extremely important for those affected. For this reason, regular ventilation should be mandatory in closed rooms. Make sure that the air is rich in oxygen even when you sleep at night. Situations of physical overexertion should be avoided as far as possible, as they can act as a trigger for organic irregularities or complications.
It is not uncommon for patients to complain about tiredness or shortness of breath. Therefore, the focus should also be placed on optimal sleep hygiene. Those who keep a good day and sleep rhythm improve their overall situation. If situations of shortness of breath arise, it is important to remain calm.
States of fear often intensify, especially in hectic situations, and should therefore be avoided. Anyone who takes medication as part of aftercare should always pay attention to the side effects - especially if it is to be expected that active ingredients can have a negative effect on breathing.
You can do that yourself
To improve well-being, avoid situations and environments in which pollutants can get into the lungs. This means that the consumption of nicotine, both actively and passively, should be completely avoided. In addition, avoid going to areas where gases or dyes can be inhaled. The supply of oxygen-rich air is immensely important for those affected. Therefore, regular ventilation in closed rooms must be ensured. Oxygen-rich air should also be present during night sleep.
Situations of physical overexertion should be avoided as they can trigger organic irregularities or complications. Often patients complain of fatigue or shortness of breath. For this reason, overall sleep hygiene should be improved. A good day and sleep rhythm help to improve the overall situation. As soon as situations of shortness of breath arise, keep calm. States of fear can intensify, especially in hectic situations, and should therefore be avoided.
When taking medication, watch out for side effects. This is especially true when active ingredients can have a negative effect on breathing. If the skin turns blue or the heart rhythm is disrupted, the limits of self-help have been reached. In these cases, cooperation with a doctor must be sought.