What is silicosis?

If you work in certain jobs in Texas, especially construction and mining, then you may be at risk of developing a disease known as silicosis. According to MedlinePlus, this disorder is caused by exposure to silica dust. This disease could show up 15 years or longer after the initial exposure, although if you are exposed to an excessive amount of silica, you might present with symptoms within a year.

Silica, which is found in rock beds, is a crystal that exists in nature. Breaking or crushing silica crystals releases dust into the air, and if this is the nature of your job, you may not be able to avoid inhaling the mineral. You are most at risk if you work in glass or abrasives manufacturing, construction, quarrying or mining, or if your job entails cutting stone or sandblasting.

When you breathe in the silica dust, it causes problems in your lungs. Difficulty breathing is one of the main symptoms, and you may also develop a cough, and lose weight. If you believe you might have silicosis, your doctor will run some tests, including x-rays and CT scans of your chest. Similar diseases must be ruled out, such as tuberculosis and connective tissue disorders.

Although similar in their symptoms, there are three main categories of this disease. If you breathe in large amounts of dust at one time, then you are at risk of acute silicosis. You might experience low levels of oxygen in your blood and shortness of breath. This is due to inflammation and possibly fluid in your lungs.  

If you breathe in silica dust over a long period of time, even if it is small amounts, it can still lead to the swelling in your lymph nodes and lungs that is known as regular, or chronic, silicosis. You might also experience an accelerated form of the disease if you breathe in large quantities over a shorter period of time, usually five to 15 years. This information is for education only and should not be considered legal advice.

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