What is Pneumoconiosis?
Without the proper intake of oxygen, the rest of your body suffers. It becomes difficult to physically exert yourself and, eventually, to perform simple tasks like walking. Additionally, COPD causes high blood pressure and leads to heart disease. Because COPD is a progressive disease, these problems grow worse over time.
COPD has no cure, but medical treatment may help slow its progression and assist with the ability to breathe. It’s important to know the symptoms of COPD, especially if you’re a smoker since treatment it in its early stages is more manageable.
What Are the Symptoms of Pneumoconiosis?
Black lung disease is a chronic disease that progresses slowly over time and its symptoms can take years to show up.
Symptoms associated with pneumoconiosis may include:
- Persistent coughing with mucus
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness of the chest
You may notice that these symptoms are similar to those of a common cold. The difference though is if you know you have prolonged exposure to breathing in hazardous foreign agents, these symptoms may be from pneumoconiosis, especially if they persist for a long time.
When you notice these symptoms, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention.
What Are the Causes of Pneumoconiosis?
Pneumoconiosis is caused by irritation and inflammation from inhaling dust and other particles. If you have worked around any of the following, you may have an increased risk of pneumoconiosis:
- Coal mines
- Textile mills
- Beryllium, aluminum oxide, cobalt and talc
Even if it’s been years since you worked in these types of environments, you should still seek medical assistance if you experience the symptoms of pneumoconiosis. The symptoms may take years to develop, so they might show up long after you’ve moved on from your job.
How is Pneumoconiosis diagnosed?
The first clue to diagnosing black lung diseases is discussing work and lifestyle history. Your physician will note if you’ve been exposed to dust, chemicals and asbestos. Furthermore, he or she will order some tests to confirm your diagnosis.
These tests may include some of the following:
- Chest x-ray
- CT scan
- Pulmonary function test
- Listening to the lungs for obstruction
If you work in an environment with prolonged exposure to dust, chemicals and asbestos, you should have your physician perform regular exams to monitor your health and catch black lung disease early if it develops.
How is Pneumoconiosis treated?
As mentioned before, pneumoconiosis cannot be cured, but treatment can help you slow the progress of the disease and assist in managing its symptoms.
If you’re a smoker, the first step in your treatment is to quit smoking. Quitting will help reduce the presence of inflammation-causing irritants in your lungs.
Depending on the severity of your condition, your age and your overall health and wellbeing, treatment may include some of the following:
- Bronchodilators – these are medications that can help relax airways and improve your ability to breathe
- Oxygen therapy – this is supplemental oxygen, which may be prescribed for certain times of the day or throughout the entire day depending on the lack of oxygen your COPD is causing
- Pulmonary rehabilitation – this includes exercising, counseling and nutritional guidance to help improve your lifestyle and reduce the amount of time you spend in a hospital with COPD symptoms.
In extreme cases, surgery may be required to remove damaged tissue. Lung transplants may also be an option for those who qualify. For questions about who qualifies for a lung transplant, you should speak with your primary care provider.
Is Pneumoconiosis preventable?
Prevention is important since the disease is not curable. Black lung disease is largely preventable by following appropriate safety measures and wearing proper safety equipment when working around dust, chemicals, smoke and asbestos.
Make sure to wash all clothes and areas of your body that come into contact with dust. Remember to schedule regular screenings and chest x-rays with your physician to monitor your health.
Also, if you smoke, then you need to quit smoking. Even if you have never worked in a hazardous environment, you can develop black lung disease from smoking cigarettes.
Would you like to speak with a medical professional about your symptoms of pneumoconiosis? Contact us at the Lung Health Institute to schedule a free consultation with one of our medical professionals to discuss your treatment options.
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