The lung is a vital organ, which is quite resistant and quickly regenerable. However, in the case of the lasting influence of damaging factors from the environment, the lung may be so burdened that its function is significantly reduced. One of these lung diseases is pneumoconiosis.

What is pneumoconiosis?

Pneumoconiosis, which is the Greek term for lung and dust, is a disease that has been referred to in the past as pneumonoconiosis. Pneumoconiosis leads to a process that is triggered by external factors and leads to the destruction of the lung tissue.

The pulmonary processes that cause pneumoconiosis are caused by the efforts of the lung tissue to regenerate. For this reason, pneumoconiosis represents a natural and reactive behavior of the respiratory organ.

In pneumoconiosis, depending on the disease triggers about 7 forms are distinguished. Pneumoconiosis is recognized as an occupational disease.


The causes for the development of pneumoconiosis or pneumoconiosis are clearly clear. In pneumoconiosis, they are based on solid particles that accumulate as inhaled dust in lung tissue. These substances include fumed silica, powders such as talc, beryllium and iron dust, aluminum and carbon dust, and the finest fibers from carcinogenic asbestos.

Basically, the triggers of pneumoconiosis are summarized as inorganic substances. These particles are inhaled in greater or lesser concentrations and thus enter the tissue structures of the lungs. Since no removal can take place, the doses of these disease triggers increase the pneumoconiosis and lead to some significant discomfort, which may ultimately end in death.

If organic substances such as fungal spores or components of bird droppings are inhaled, pneumoconiosis results in allergic alveolitis (inflammation of the alveoli).

Symptoms, complaints & signs

The signs of pneumoconiosis can suddenly occur within a few weeks to months or develop creeping over years. The less time passes between the exposure to dust and the first symptoms, the greater the symptoms are usually pronounced. The acute pneumoconiosis shows a rapid aggravation.

Patients are increasingly suffering from shortness of breath. Due to the lack of oxygen supply, the mucous membranes of the mouth, the lips and the fingers turn bluish. In addition, those affected lose unwanted weight and feel powerless and cut off. Cough and chest pain are other symptoms of pneumoconiosis.

In the course of the disease, the functional tissue of the lung hardens increasingly. The lungs can not expand and breathing is much more difficult. As with acute pneumoconiosis, the chronic form also shows a cough. This is initially dry, but is later accompanied by a dark ejection.

Since the lungs can no longer stretch and develop, the entire body is no longer sufficiently supplied with oxygen. Therefore also at a chronic pneumoconiosis the skin (cyanosis) in the area of ​​a face and fingers turns blue.

Diagnosis & History

The course of pneumoconiosis is characterized by either a malignant or a benign path and depends on the substances taken up and on the extent and depth of the dust deposits.

Malignant pneumoconiosis is characterized by eventual loss of lung function and is predominantly associated with silicosis, asbestosis or talc. Benign courses of pneumoconiosis merely alter the lung tissue and reduce the functional capacity of the respiratory organ.

Most forms of pneumoconiosis are, under certain circumstances, an occupational disease and are notifiable. A pneumoconiosis can be recorded through a medical history, which relates in particular to the occupational activity of those affected in combination with X-ray and computed tomography images of the lungs. In addition, the described symptoms in pneumoconiosis also serve as important foundations for diagnostics.


The complications of pneumoconiosis depend on the course of the disease and on the inhaled substances. In any case, the contact with the substances that triggered the pneumoconiosis must be stopped immediately or at least severely limited. Otherwise, loss of pulmonary function due to progressive fibrosis almost always threatens.

There is an increased risk of tuberculosis in patients with pneumoconiosis. The disease occurs in Europe usually only in coexistence in a confined space in conjunction with poor hygienic conditions and malnutrition on. In pneumoconiosis patients, the pathogens in the already attacked lung tissue can easily implant and reproduce well.

The patient then suffers from fever, severe cough associated with shortness of breath and usually bloody sputum. In severe cases tuberculosis is not limited to the lungs but spreads to other organs. Because tuberculosis is contagious, it can lead to infection of family members or work colleagues.

In case of a malignant course of pneumoconiosis, the patient can also develop lung cancer. Even if the cancer does not fatal, the therapy for the person concerned and his family environment is extremely stressful.

When should you go to the doctor?

If symptoms such as pain in the lungs, shortness of breath or coughing appear, a visit to the doctor is necessary. Pneumoconiosis is a serious condition, but its effects can be relieved with appropriate treatment. Therefore, the first signs of pneumoconiosis should be examined. Persons working in the mining industry or any other high-pollutant industry should have the symptoms listed immediately. People who are already suffering from lung disease should call the family doctor if the symptoms get worse or if other unusual symptoms appear and do not disappear within a week.

Pneumoconiosis is treated by the ENT specialist or a lung specialist. Other contact points are internists or the rheumatologist, if there is a suspicion of Caplan syndrome. Since pneumoconiosis is an occupational disease, the necessary documentation must be submitted to the health insurance company at an early stage. This should be done quickly with the responsible doctor, who can help with the organizational tasks. For chronic illnesses sometimes a psychological accompanying therapy is useful.

Treatment & Therapy

The treatment of pneumoconiosis depends on the type and the symptoms. Avoiding the causative triggers is the first central factor in the therapy of pneumoconiosis.

The so-called dust pneumonia can only be treated poorly. Especially in the later chronic course comes in pneumoconiosis mainly respiration with oxygen in question in order to increase the quality of life of those affected. This therapeutic measure is considered a long-term care.

Since pneumoconiosis is a disease that directly refers to the so-called lung intermediate tissue, therapy is not possible, so that no influence on the further course of pneumoconiosis can be taken.

Overall, it is typical for the course of pneumoconiosis that develops pulmonary fibrosis and the tuberculosis-like symptoms may occur. In this context, emergency medical treatment in pneumoconiosis can not be ruled out.


In order to prevent the occupational disease pneumoconiosis, it is essential to comply with the occupational health and safety measures if contact with the triggering factors can not be avoided at an endangered workplace.

In addition, regular health checks in these high-risk occupations are normal and should be followed by every employee. These prophylactic examinations are ideal for early detection of the first signs of pneumoconiosis or pneumoconiosis. If this is the case, those affected can no longer be active in the correspondingly stressed work areas.


In most cases, only very few measures of direct follow-up care are available to the person affected during pneumoconiosis. The patient is primarily dependent on a rapid and especially on a very early diagnosis of this disease. As a result, further complications can be prevented, which, if left untreated, can in the worst case lead to the death of the person affected.

Therefore, the patient should visit a doctor in pneumoconiosis at the first signs and symptoms of the disease and initiate treatment. As a rule, those affected are dependent on artificial respiration with oxygen. It should also be noted that most patients in this disease also rely on the help and support of friends and by their own family to cope in everyday life.

Loving and intensive conversations are also very important, as they can also prevent depression and other mental upsets. Likewise, regular checks should be made with a doctor to permanently monitor the condition of the lungs. Efforts or physical and stressful activities are also foreseeable in this disease. In some cases, pneumoconiosis significantly reduces the life expectancy of the person concerned.

You can do that yourself

Patients with pneumoconiosis or pneumoconiosis have been exposed for a long time to a harmful substance that has accumulated in their lungs and now causes discomfort. This substance should no longer be exposed to the patient in the future. Under certain circumstances, this can mean that he can no longer pursue his profession and retrain or take a pension. This drastic step is necessary to mitigate the course of pneumoconiosis.

Pneumoconiosis patients living in the city should also consider relocating to the countryside. They should ensure that their airways are not exposed to any substances that could harm them. These include car exhaust emissions and particulate emissions, which are often found in high concentrations in the city. Of course, is also the abandonment of smoking.

Patients with pneumoconiosis can easily develop tuberculosis. The pathogens of this infection nest particularly well in an attacked lung. Therefore, patients should train their immune system so that it can better ward off the tubercle bacilli. They should take care of the needs of their body and eat light and healthy and drink plenty of water, tea or thin juices. It is recommended a lot of rest and regular sleeping hours.

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