Last Updated on Jul 07, 2018


Silicosis is a lung disease caused by inhalation of crystalline free silica dust. It is characterised by nodular pulmonary fibrosis, i.e. part of the lung becomes covered with a thick layer of nonexpansile fibrous tissue. It is an occupational disease.

Silicosis is a term was introduced by Visconti in 1870 and was derived from Latin silex, or flint. Chronic Silicosis initially causes no symptoms or old mild respiratory difficulties. Over years it may, however progress to involve most of the lung.

All patients are at about 30-fold increased risk of pulmonary TB or nontubercular mycobacterial disease. Exposure to silica (without developing silicosis) alone can triple the risk. Chronic silicosis initially causes no symptoms or old mild respiratory difficulties. Over years it may, however progress to involve most of the lung and may cause dyspnoea (difficulty to breathe) at rest. Patients with silicosis will gave an occupational history of silica exposure.


Diagnosis is based on history and radiological findings. A diagnosis of silicosis is usually confirmed by chest x-ray or CT appearance. CT is more sensitive than x-ray.

Treatment is chiefly supportive. There is no specific therapy that can cure or alter the course of silicosis. The first step in the treatment of silicosis is to prevent further exposure to silica dust. Patients must quit smoking. Immunization against influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia is advised. Patients with acute silicosis may benefit from corticosteroids. Severe cases may require lung transplantation. Introduction of mechanized mining brought about an increase in prevalence of silicosis. No racial predilection is reported. Male workers are primarily affected. Not much information regarding age is available. The general term for lung disease caused by inhalation of mineral dust is pneumoconiosis.


  1. Cecil Medicine, 23rd ed.
  2. Graham WGB. Quartz and silicosis. In: Banks D, Parker J, eds.Occupational Lung Disease: An International Perspective. New York, NY: Chapman & Hall Medical; 1998:191-212.

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Kenneth8301 Friday, October 7, 2011

Hi Sincerely seeking some professional advice here. I have been exposed to an incident of inhaling silica dust for some 2 hours at a quartz, granite, marble polishing and grinding foundry [as I was tasked to select marble for our new office renovation]. The dust concentration in the enclosure is strong in my opinion (air is of a dusty white fog with strong smell of the stones). Now I noticed phelgm and mild coughing. Do I need an X-Ray examination for symptoms of silicosis? Also, since silica gets retained would anyone who inhaled silica dust, even if of a one off incident eventually develop symptoms of silicosis? Thank you

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