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What Is Silicosis?

Silicosis is a form of permanent lung damage caused by the long-term inhalation of tiny silica dust particles by workers involved in rock quarrying, stone cutting, tunnelling, pottery and in those who use diatumaceous earth. Multiple small hard round nodules develop in the lung.

There are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, but in advanced cases patients develop shortness of breath, and a poor tolerance to exercise. Other symptoms of this disease, especially in acute silicosis, include fever, cough, weight loss and severe breathing difficulty. Lung infections such as pneumonia may be a complication.

Chest x-ray shows characteristic abnormalities, but there is no treatment and no cure. Intense exposure to silica can cause disease within a year, but it usually takes at least 10 - 15 years of exposure before symptoms occur.

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