Categories: Pulmonology

All you need to know about Occupational lung diseases

Since the idea of advancements and industrial development has taken pace the problem of occupational lung disease has also been adding to the respiratory distress. Studies confirm that occupational lung disease is one of the major concerns in regard to on the job illness. People can be seen complaining about recurrent breathing issues working in chemical factories or other industries. Work-related asthma is the most common condition which is most talked about under this category. More problems arise because of the prevailing number of COPD and asthma patients. The number of these patients is already at rise worldwide. Going by WHO’s data it states that Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death worldwide, causing 3.23 million deaths in 2019, at the same WHO states that over 80% of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Meta-analysis of facts about COPD and Asthma somehow reflects the severity of the diseases and the worsening condition of the world. This data is enough to show how worsening it could be in regard to occupational lung diseases. We are already dealing the problem of rising number of asthmas, COPD and other respiratory distresses. Along with occupational lung diseases, the environmental factors should also be well considered as they are also adding to respiratory distress worldwide. We just have no idea what we are inhaling in our daily lives, but still, we should know our health triggers.  Let us get some more insight, what is occupational lung disease exactly is? What are the symptoms and how it can be prevented?

What is occupational lung disease?

It is basically a gradual but long-lasting effect on lungs caused under certain types of jobs that expose one to the certain types of chemicals. It can compromise lungs functioning; its capacity and can potentially damage the lungs. Occupational lung diseases can be far dangerous for the people already suffering from respiratory distress like asthma, COPD etc. also the people with certain allergies.

Symptoms of Occupational lung diseases can present in:-

  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Breathlessness
  • Chest congestion
  • Distorted breathing patterns

Causes that can make occupational lung diseases worst:

  • Poor lung growth: respiratory issues at birth or problems occurred to the lungs while growing lead to the compromised functioning of lungs. Although it depends upon people’s conditions, they are living in but still persons with poor lung growth should avoid such job patterns as much as possible.
  • Safety norms at work: we have to work for our economic constraints and living, every type of respectable job with worth safety norms should be welcomed. Hence people working in industries, factories, and other places where they are prone to getting exposed to certain harmful gases or chemicals should be provided all safety gears, masks etc. along with worker’s performance at work their health and safety should also be ensured by owners. Check for such safety norms at work and file a complaint if not provided as it may potentially put people’s health at risk.
  • Smoking: Smoking is dangerous for overall health, it adds to the COPD as well. Chain smokers are highly at the risk of catching respiratory problems and getting them worst. It surely adds more to the risk of occupational lung diseases and smoking is considered to be one of the leading causes of the worsening asthma and COPD. It is also unfortunate that because of smokers around passive smokers are also at the risk of COPD. Especially children should be taken more care of in this regard. Hence this habit should be abolished today.
  • Air pollution: this is one of the major reasons adding to the respiratory distress in the entire world. We have no idea the toxic elements present in environment are unknowingly damaging our lungs and posing risk to our overall wellbeing. Here it is worth mentioning that people who are conscious about their health are also exposed to it, which is very unfortunate. It surely needs to be dealt at broader level. It needs an inclusive approach. Hence it adds to the risk for the patients suffering from occupational lung diseases.
  • Family history: family history of COPD and asthma can also be a key factor of aggravating its occurrence. Hence keep an eye on your family history of diseases and avoid such jobs if possible and maintain your lifestyle accordingly.

Considering the causes mentioned above we really need to think about the life pattern we are following, because other people’s idea of development is causing health crisis for others. We need to rethink about our ideas of development which comes at the risk of health and wellbeing.

Treatment of Occupational lung diseases:

There is no absolute cure of occupational lung disease. It may leave long lasting and irreversible effect on lungs. The patient can continue to suffer even after leaving certain job that has been exposing him to certain chemicals.

Initially, certain X-rays can be done for monitoring lung’s condition then other pulmonary functioning tests can be suggested for proper diagnosis. Then as per the severity of the disease the direction of treatment is set. The prevailing symptoms are managed with medication, and further lung scarring is prevented. The already prevailing lung scarring cannot be reversed but further scarring is prevented through treatment. Also, the entire treatment procedure can change with already existing lung diseases like asthma, COPD or certain recurrent symptoms.

 The patient is of course told to not to be further exposed to the chemicals and gases. Here patients should understand their risk factors and prevent themselves from them.

This article is authored by Dr. Nitin Rathi, Senior Consultant – Pulmonology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi

Narayana Health

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