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Black Lung Disease: All You Want To Know About This Job-Related Illness

Black lung disease can cause symptoms like cough (with or without black sputum), shortness of breath and chest tightness. Read on to know more

Written by Longjam Dineshwori | Updated : January 27, 2023 3:37 PM IST


Black Lung Disease Or Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis

Work-place exposure to certain dusts such as asbestos fiber, silica, coal mine dust, aluminum, antimony, can lead to lung diseases, which are collectively known as pneumoconiosis. The three common pneumoconiosis include abestosis (caused by inhaling asbestos fibers), silicosis (caused by inhaling silica dust) and Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis or commonly known as black lung disease (caused by inhaling coal mine dust). There is also a form called mixed-dust pneumoconiosis. However, these lung diseases are not reported frequently. Here, we are going to talk about coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP) in detail.


Cause Of Black Lung Disease

It mainly affects coal miners and hence the name, coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP). One may get black lung disease form inhaling coal dust over a long period of time. When we breathe in coal dust, the dust particles get deposited in our airways and lungs. The immune system’s response to these particles can lead to inflammation, and over time, it can cause scarring or fibrosis. The severity of the disease depends on the amount of dust inhaled and for how long. CWP has two types: simple (spots or scar tissue in the lungs) and complicated or progressive massive fibrosis (PMF) (when there is a lot of scarring in the lungs).  Also Read - Irritable Bowel Syndrome And Mental Disorders: Studies Find A Connection


Screening For Black Lung Disease

To diagnose black lung disease, doctors will ask details about your medical history and exposure to coal dust. They would recommend a chest X-ray, CT scan, or both, to look for any spots or masses on your lungs or signs of inflammation. In addition, a pulmonary function test may be required to check how well your lungs are working.


Treatment For Black Lung Disease

Unfortunately, there is no cure for black lung disease. Treatments help ease symptoms, prevent further lung damage, and improve the patient’s quality of life. CWP patients may be prescribed inhalers or other medication to keep their airways open, especially those having asthma symptoms. Oxygen may be prescribed if their oxygen levels are low. A pulmonary rehabilitation program may help them breathe better. In rare cases, a lung transplant may be required.  Also Read - 8 Common Health Problems Seen In Women: Early Signs To Watch Out For


Prevent Black Lung Disease

Black lung disease is avoidable and preventable. To avoid all exposure to dust, coal workers are advised to wear a mask, wash dust off exposed skin, wash their face and hands before eating, drinking, or taking medicine, get regular chest X-rays. Smoking can aggravate lung damage and worsen the CWP symptoms. So, if you smoke, quit it.