Silicosis is a lung disease. It is caused by breathing dust that contains crystalline silica. In acute silicosis, the disease occurs after weeks or months of exposure to very high levels of the silica.
Crystalline silica can be found in:
When these materials are cut, broken, crushed, drilled, ground, or blasted, silica dust may be produced. When silica dust gets into the air you breathe, it may become trapped in your lungs. The dust buildup damages your lungs. More dust will create more damage. This will make it hard for you to breathe.
Working in the following occupations increases your chance of acute silicosis:
Symptoms may appear within a few weeks to 2 years after exposure:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. You will also be asked about your work history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include the following:
There is no specific treatment for silicosis. If you have acute silicosis, you will be advised to avoid additional exposure. Your doctor may also treat other conditions associated with acute silicosis. These may include blockage or airway narrowing. You will also be advised to avoid smoking.
To help reduce your chance of silicosis:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Occupational Safety & Health Administration
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
The Lung Association
Interstitial lung disease. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900225/Interstitial-lung-disease. Updated March 4, 2016. Accessed September 27, 2016.
Silicosis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pulmonary-disorders/environmental-pulmonary-diseases/silicosis. Updated May 2014. Accessed May 4, 2016.
Silicosis: Learn the facts! National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-108. Updated June 6, 2014. Accessed May 4, 2016.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.