What is Silicosis?

Doctor reviewing x-ray of a patient’s lungs.

Silicosis is a respiratory disease. It occurs from long-term inhalation of respirable crystalline silica dust.

There are three types of silicosis:

  1. Acute silicosis
    Short-term exposure to very large amounts of silica that inflame the lungs, causing them to fill with fluid. This results in severe shortness of breath and low blood oxygen levels.
  2. Accelerated silicosis 
    Exposure to large amounts of silica over a period (5-15 years). This results in inflammation, scarring, and symptoms that rapidly progress.
  3. Simple chronic silicosis
    Occurs from long-term exposure (greater than 20 years) to small amounts of silica dust. This results in inflamed nodules and scarring in the lungs and chest lymph nodes. This form of silicosis may resemble chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

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