Diagnosis, Treatment And Prevention of Silicosis

ID-100102378Diagnosis of silicosis:

Diagnosis of silicosis is mainly based on three main aspects. The first aspect is history of adequate exposure to silica dust mainly as part of occupation (occupational exposure). Second, chest imaging (mainly chest X-ray) to reveal findings similar to silicosis and third is ruling out of any other underlying disease/pathology of lungs, which can cause similar symptoms as that of silicosis.

Physical examination of patient usually does not reveal any significant information to be helpful (non-specific findings for silicosis) in diagnosis of silicosis, unless there are sever complications. Lung function tests usually show restrictive defects, airflow limitations etc. or they may even be normal, hence non-conclusive.

Majority of cases of silicosis can be diagnosed based on three major aspects (history of silica dust exposure, chest imaging or X-ray and by ruling out other lung pathology). However, sometimes biopsy may be required to confirm diagnosis of silicosis.

Treatment of silicosis:

There is no cure for silicosis and the disease is irreversible, once the disease progression starts. Hence, treatment is aimed at symptomatic relief and preventing complications.

Treatment of silicosis includes:

  • Stopping further exposure to silica dust as well as other lung irritants such as tobacco smoke
  • Suitable antibiotics for bacterial infection if present and for prevention of infection
  • Cough suppressants
  • Prophylaxis for tuberculosis, especially if tuberculin test is positive
  • Chest physiotherapy for easy drainage of mucus from bronchus
  • Oxygen administration, if required
  • Bronchodilators (such as salbutamol, salmeterol)
  • Broncoalveolar lavage in case of severe acute silicosis
  • Lung transplantation, for patients with lung damage
  • Treatment of associated disease and complications, such as treatment of tuberculosis
  • Experimental treatment include administration of corticosteroids

Despite rigorous treatment, the mortality from silicosis does not decrease. The treatment mainly provides symptomatic relief.

Prevention of silicosis:

Silicosis is a progressive and incurable disease; hence, prevention is the best management of silicosis. The best way of prevention of silicosis, is to identify work places where there is presence of respirable crystalline silica dust particles in work environment and control and eliminate (if possible) the respirable crystalline silica dust particles from the work environment. Crystalline silica dust particles can be controlled by filtration of dry air or by spraying of water, where respirable crystalline silica dust particles emanates.

One study in Lucknow (India) fond that jaggery (a traditional sugar made from sugarcane juice) has preventive/protective action against silicosis.

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