Adults spend the majority of their lives working. As such, it is not uncommon to hear of people who have acquired diseases because of their occupation. Jobs that require workers to be exposed to respiratory particles and substances like exhaust, fire, and smokestacks are among the most notorious culprits for occupational lung diseases.
Even though occupational lung diseases treatments are readily available today, they are only beneficial with early detection and rehabilitation. It is still essential to be properly advised even when you are not noticing any symptoms.
In this article, we are going to walk you through some of the most dangerous types of occupational lung diseases. If you suspect that you might be exposed to harmful substances and particles, consult your respiratory physician right away.
Black Lung Disease or Pneumoconiosis
Workers who labour in coal mines are susceptible to inhaling coal dust. Even with basic personal protective equipment (PPEs), coal dust can still infiltrate filters and make their way through a worker’s lungs. Prolonged exposure to coal dust can lead to lung inflammation and scarring.
If left untreated, symptoms of the black lung disease can lead to permanent lung damage. Shortness of breath is just one of the most common manifestations of lung damage due to Pneumoconiosis.
Various substances can harm the lungs, especially when the individual is highly allergic to that particular substance. Fungus spores, bacteria, animal or plant protein, and other chemicals can cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis. When inhaled, these substances can irritate the lungs’ air sacs.
Constant exposure to these substances, like the case in Pneumoconiosis, can lead to lung scarring. Individuals who work in cork factories, farmers, and mushroom harvesters are particularly vulnerable. Wearing the proper and complete PPEs is highly recommended.
Breathing in dust particles, fumes, vapours, and certain gases can trigger asthma symptoms like wheezing and coughing. Working in closed industrial environments like manufacturing, food processing, textile industries, among others, can contribute to the development of this disease.
Airborne crystalline silica particles are dangerous when inhaled. These particles are fairly abundant in mines, foundries, and manufacturing facilities. Workers typically develop this particular type of occupational lung disease when their ventilation systems are not good enough to filter out the said particles, even more when they go about their work without protective suits.
Asbestos was a very common construction material in the 1900s. Up until recently, it was banned after being proven to have adverse effects on the workers’ lungs and overall health. Prolonged asbestos exposure can even lead to cancers like mesothelioma.
The worst part is that asbestosis can go unnoticed for years until the sufferer finally shows symptoms of lung damage. People who have worked in the construction industry for a long-time report to notice no symptoms until 20 years after exposure. Even if you do not feel any symptoms right now, asbestos particles are sitting time-bombs on your lung health.
Byssinosis, also known as Brown Lung Disease, is characterised by chronic tightness in the chest and shortness of breath. This particular disease can be caused by exposure to hemp, flax, and cotton processing. Individuals who work in textile factories and other related workplaces are most commonly reported to have this disease.
Typical Signs and Symptoms
Substances and particles interact differently with different body compositions. Occupational lung diseases also come with varying sets of symptoms, but they do have common symptoms that point to the same problem. Though not all people will experience the same symptoms, the following are often tell-tale signs of respiratory problems:
- Chronic cough
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
- Irregular breathing
- Chest pains
If you have been experiencing any of the following, it is best to consult with a physician near you. Remember that early treatment can spell the difference between full recovery and permanent lung damage, so book a consultation with a medical professional if symptoms persist.
Treatment and Rehabilitation Procedures
There are many occupational lung diseases treatment available nowadays. If you do choose to have a consultation with a respiratory physician or pulmonologist, here are some methods they might use to diagnose your specific problem:
- Chest X-Ray
- Pulmonary Function Tests
- Blood Gas
- Biopsy CT Scan
Test methods will vary depending on the clinic that you go to. Make sure to seek help from credible respiratory physicians who have had years in the business and a clinic that offers holistic diagnostic procedures.
Need a Consultation?
Working hard can take a toll on our bodies, especially our lungs. Without the ability to breathe, it would be hard for our whole body to function. As such, lung health is one of the most important and vital part of our overall health. Take care of your lungs and do not wait for the symptoms to show.
Visit your local respiratory clinic today to learn more about your lung health. Remember, occupational lung disease treatments work better with early detection and prevention.