Is Your Work Giving You a Lung Disease?

Is Your Work Giving You a Lung Disease?

by Alex Hirsch (SU)

Breathing should be easy. After all, it is an activity that everyone must do to stay alive. The oxygen that we breathe into our lungs is needed for the life of every cell in our body.

Lung disease is therefore a serious health issue that can be life-threatening. Unhealthy working conditions can affect the quality of the air you breathe – and can cause illness, including lung disease.

If you are having trouble breathing or you’re suffering from a chronic cough, and you work in an area that has poor air quality or air pollution, you may be at risk of developing occupational lung disease. 

What Is Work-Related Lung Disease? 

Work-related lung disease is acquired through exposure to environmental hazards at the workplace or in the areas in which you work. There are two main types of work-related lung disease: interstitial lung disease (ILD) and airway disease. 

Interstitial Lung Disease

Interstitial lung disease is a group of respiratory illnesses that cause scarring in the lungs. ILD is progressive, meaning it gets worse over time and exposure.

It is unlikely to be diagnosed at its onset, but it shows more symptoms as the scarring gets worse. Many cases of interstitial lung disease are acquired from toxins in the environment, for example, from working conditions. 

These are some of the common types of interstitial lung diseases that can be caused by working conditions:

  • Coal worker’s pneumoconiosis
  • Asbestosis
  • Berylliosis
  • Silicosis
  • Farmer’s lung (hypersensitivity pneumonitis)
  • Pigeon breeder’s disease

These conditions have in common the scarring that occurs in the lungs due to repeated exposure to polluted air – namely, frequent inhalation of harmful particles in the air at the workplace. Scarring that occurs this way is usually not reversible. However, the progression of the disease can be halted by discontinuing exposure and changing your environment.

Medication can make breathing with the undamaged portion of the lungs more productive, and it can also help reduce coughing. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent serious permanent damage to the lungs.

Airway Disease

Airway diseases are very common. Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are the most common airway diseases.

These respiratory illnesses make breathing difficult due to inflammation of the airways that lead to the lungs – including the trachea, or windpipe. Asthma can develop as a complication of allergies or in response to foreign substances in the environment. 

Occupational Asthma 

In particular, occupational asthma is caused by repeated inhalation of fumes, gases, or dust in the workplace. If the affected person is allergic or sensitive to the particles in the air, the effect is even more pronounced.

Occupational asthma causes a feeling of restriction in the chest and the inability to take a deep breath. It can lead to serious injury or death – unless the environment is changed.

COPD

COPD is usually a result of smoking. However, up to 10 percent of COPD cases are caused by workplace environmental factors such as gas, dust, and fumes. Therefore, smokers who work in a high-pollution environment are at a much greater risk of COPD than are smokers who do not work in these high-risk occupations.

Pulmonary Doctors in Texas 

If you are having difficulty breathing and you suspect that you have a work-related lung condition, a lung specialist can help.

At Lung & Sleep Specialists of North Texas, our lung doctors are recognized as the leading pulmonologists in the region. Led by Dr. Olusegun Oseni – who is board-certified in sleep medicine, internal medicine, pulmonary care, and critical care – our experienced team can diagnose work-related lung disease and offer a complete treatment plan to restore your quality of life.

Call us today at (817) 594-9993 to schedule an appointment, or fill out our easy-to-use online appointment request form. We look forward to helping you breathe better.