Pneumoconiosis is a lung disease that affects miners, builders, and other workers who breathe in certain kinds of dust on the job.


  • Pneumoconiosis doesn’t show up overnight.

  • It happens after you’ve spent years in a place where you breathe in fine mineral or chemical dust, such as silica, coal dust, or asbestos.

  • When the specks of dust build up in your lungs, the immune system your body’s defense against germs swings into action.

  • It sees the dust particles as invaders and tries to destroy them.

  • Your lung tissue often gets inflamed during this process.

  • As a result, scar tissue may form in your lungs, just as it would after an injury.

  • Since scar tissue is less stretchy than regular lung tissue, it may become harder for you to take a full, deep breath.


Many people with pneumoconiosis get problems like:

  • A long-term cough

  • Coughing up large amounts of mucus

  • Feeling short of breath

  • You may get other symptoms, depending on what kind of pneumoconiosis you have. If you breathed in a lot of asbestos dust, for instance, fluid may build up in the pleural space, a narrow area between the lungs and the chest wall.


  • Your doctor may use X-rays or CT scans to figure out if you have pneumoconiosis.

  • If you have the disease, images from these tests will show scar tissue in your lungs or dense lumps of tissue called nodules.

  • Your doctor may order other tests to better understand your condition.

  • You may get a pulmonary function test to see how well air enters and leaves your lungs.

  • An oxygen saturation test shows how much of the oxygen you breathe makes it to your bloodstream.

  • In some cases, your doctor may look at your airways with a tiny camera or take a small sample of lung tissue (biopsy) to confirm your diagnosis.


  • There isn’t any treatment that can remove the specks of mineral dust in your lungs.

  • Instead, most treatments try to keep your lungs working.

  • You may need to stop doing the work that led to your pneumoconiosis.

  • If you’re a smoker, your doctor will recommend you quit to improve your lung health.

  • Your doctor may prescribe an inhaled medication such as a bronchodilator or corticosteroid.

  • Bronchodilators open up your airways if you have trouble breathing, while corticosteroids can curb airway inflammation.

  • If your tests show low levels of oxygen in your blood, your doctor may suggest you get supplemental oxygen therapy.

  • In this treatment, you breathe in extra oxygen through a mask or prongs in your nose.

  • The oxygen you get this way is stored in a tank or some other kind of device.

  • Some people use this treatment throughout the day, while others may need it only at night.


  • The best way to prevent pneumoconiosis is to wear a respirator mask at work, which will help keep mineral dust out of your lungs.

  • If you’ve been in a place with fine dust, wash your face and hands before you drink or eat.

  • This way, you won’t accidentally breathe in dust that gets stuck to you.

  • If your job puts you at risk of pneumoconiosis, you should get regular physical exams and chest X-rays to make sure your lungs stay in good health.

diseases treatments health prevention pneumoconiosis respiratory-system disorders

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