Are you a Pennsylvania worker currently or formerly involved in the steel industry, construction, road repair, masonry or roofing? If so, you could be at risk for silicosis. Silica is a tiny crystal present in quartz and other mineral ores, sand and rock. Silicosis can result when you breathe in dust containing silica crystals.

According to WebMD, significant exposure to silica dust can cause it to build up in your lungs as you breathe it in. The dust buildup can cause damage to your lungs in the form of scarring. This makes breathing more difficult as the scarred lung tissue becomes stiff and less able to function properly. In addition to trouble breathing, early symptoms of silicosis include excess phlegm and persistent cough.

As the disease progresses, you may experience additional symptoms. These can include cyanosis, i.e., blue coloring of the lips that indicates you are not receiving enough oxygen. Other symptoms of advanced silicosis include the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden fever
  • Fatigue
  • Leg swelling
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss

Advanced cases of silicosis may require lung transplants. If the symptoms are relatively mild, you may benefit from oxygen therapy. Certain medications may relax your breathing passages or reduce mucus in your lungs. Silicosis puts you at increased risk for respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia, flu or tuberculosis. You may also be more prone to developing chronic conditions, such as COPD or lung cancer.

If your employment history puts you at risk for silicosis and you begin to notice symptoms, you should see your doctor. He or she may perform a biopsy, bronchoscopy, chest x-ray or sputum test to diagnose silicosis and rule out other lung conditions.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.