Silicosis is an incurable lung disease caused by inhaling airborne silica dust released by mining, construction, and other types of stone or masonry work. Scar tissue and fibrous nodules form around the silica crystals, leading to a condition of chronic inflammation in the lungs. The disease continues to develop even after exposure has stopped. When the scarring and fibrous growth become extensive enough, breathing will be affected.
Doctors recognize three main types of silicosis:
Chronic silicosis develops after long-term exposure (more than ten years) to low levels of silica dust. This is the mildest form of silicosis, and symptoms may be limited to bouts of breathlessness, particularly while exercising.
Complicated silicosis develops in individuals who have experienced high levels of silica dust over a shorter length of time. Symptoms – such as breathlessness, coughing, and chest pain – are more severe. Excessive fibrous scarring results in restricted lung function and, often, heart disease.
Exposure to a massive amount of silica dust in short period of time produces acute silicosis. This form of silicosis can proceed very rapidly. There are few treatment options available for acute silicosis, and death from infection or tuberculosis complications usually follows soon after diagnosis.
Those who have developed silicosis as a result of on-the-job silica dust exposure may want to contact a qualified injury attorney who can help obtain financial compensation for their injuries.