Byssinosis is a lung disease caused by inhaling hemp, flax, and cotton particles. It is also known as brown lung disease and is a form of occupational asthma. Byssinosis occurs in people who work with unprocessed cotton, and people who open bales are at the highest risk of getting affected by this disease. That is why proper diagnosis and treatment for it is required on time. It should not be delayed.
There is also a type of Byssinosis in the people who work with the grain, known as a grain worker’s lung. The number of people who get affected by Byssinosis is very minimal. But still, it is a very common disease in most common developing countries. This article will study the causes and treatment methods of this particular type of cotton dust disease. So, make sure you keep an eye on it.
Symptoms Of Byssinosis
The Byssinosis symptoms appear at the beginning of the workweek. In the case of Byssinosis, if the person is exposed to dust particles for a longer period, the symptoms that they might experience are as follows:
- Chest wheezing
- Muscle and joint pain
- Dry cough
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tightness in chest
Symptoms of Byssinosis tend to go away when the person is exposed to dust particles. However, permanent impairment of the functioning of the lungs can occur if the exposure prevails. Sweating, retractions, grunting, and nose flaring are the initial symptoms of the breathing problem caused by Byssinosis.
Causes Of Byssinosis
Byssinosis is the most common type of disease seen in textile industry workers. Inhalation of raw flax, hemp, cotton dust, and other similar particles can majorly cause Byssinosis, and smoking can increase the risk of developing Byssinosis. Moreover, a person who has a history of asthma and allergies tends to be more prone to this type of lung disease. In most of the people associated with the textile industry, cotton dust is one of the major Byssinosis causes. That is why any individual working in such areas must watch out for this as far as possible.
Some people tend to get affected by this disease only after being exposed to the cotton dust for a few months. But, in most cases, people do not get affected by Byssinosis until they are exposed to the textile dust for more than ten years or longer than that. In such cases, they are either asked to change their profession or work wearing proper masks and face coverings.
Diagnosis Of Byssinosis
To diagnose Byssinosis, the doctor questions about the recent activities or the type of the work to know whether the person is working in the textile industry or not. The doctors perform physical examinations to check the status of the lungs.
Pulmonary function tests are the most common tests done to check lung health. In the case of Byssinosis, the doctor gives a peak flow meter to test the working of the lungs, and the meter examines how quickly the patient can expel air from the lungs.
Treatment Of Byssinosis
The prime treatment for Byssinosis that any doctor would prescribe is avoiding pressure to harmful dust. In case of mild to moderate symptoms, the doctor prescribes bronchodilators, and these are drugs that help in opening restricted airways. In severe cases of Byssinosis, inhaled corticosteroids are prescribed. In the case of Byssinosis, if the patient’s blood oxygen level is low, they might need supplemental oxygen therapy.
If it takes a chronic form, a nebulizer or other respiratory treatment is suggested for Byssinosis treatment. Breathing exercises and physical activities can also be considered additional treatment options for improving lung health and its correlated symptoms. In extreme cases, the doctor even suggests changing the career as there might be chances of getting worse.
Prevention Of Byssinosis
Byssinosis is a type of disease that can be prevented. If a person works in the textile industry and is excessively prone to this disease, they should wear a mask, especially near the dust. Many companies abroad have special legal obligations that protect people from dangerous products at work and promote Byssinosis prevention.
Moreover, the employer is made to wear protective gear according to the companies’ guidelines. Wearing a respirator or mask while working around textile dust is very important. Also, if a person is a smoker, quitting smoking can help tremendously improve lung health.
Complications Of Byssinosis
Byssinosis is a lung disease caused by any job-related exposure to dust from cotton, hemp, or flax. This dust causes lung diseases by restricting small air tubes known as bronchioles. It can further cause symptoms like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. If the exposure is ongoing, the person might have persistent feelings throughout the week. In advanced stages, Byssinosis can become irreversible obstructive lung disease.
Byssinosis is also a form of pneumoconiosis because of prolonged inhalation of proper dust. This disease is recognized as a major cause of ill health among British cotton mill workers. It further complicates the human body by developing lung fibrosis, dependence on oxygen, reduction of exercise tolerance, disability, and premature death.
Byssinosis is an irreversible disease. The majority of people recover from this disease from treatment and need to avoid exposure to cotton dust. Patients misdiagnosed or untreated can experience lung fibrosis and impaired lung function. In mild Byssinosis, the patient should immediately change their professional stream. However, tightness in the chest and wheezing can be treated through the medications given to asthma patients.
Many individuals take the help of nebulizers and additional respirators to keep pace with normal breathing. If the exposure is ongoing, it is advised to change the career to prevent further exposure to cotton dust. Moreover, physical rehabilitation has benefited rehabilitation who have long-term exposure to cotton dust and suffer from byssinosis. Patients should take special care of themselves in such cases. In case of emergency, they should seek immediate medical attention.
Dr. Nitin Rathi | Senior Consultant – Pulmonology | Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi