Certain types of work put you at greater risk for occupational lung diseases than others. For instance, working in a car garage or textile factory can expose you to unsafe chemicals, dusts, and fibers.
Most occupational lung diseases are caused by repeated, long-term exposure. But, even a severe, single exposure to an unsafe agent can damage the lungs.
Smoking can make occupational lung disease worse.
The following are the most common symptoms of lung diseases. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of occupational lung diseases may look like other medical conditions or problems. Always consult a health care provider for a diagnosis.
Occupational lung diseases, like other lung diseases, usually require an initial chest X-ray for diagnosis. Tests that may be needed to determine the type and severity of the lung disease include:
A test that takes pictures of internal tissues, bones, and organs.
These tests help measure the lungs' ability to move air into and out of the lungs. The tests are usually done with special machines that you breathe into.
This test uses a flexible tube called a bronchoscope to view the bronchi (the main airways of the lungs). Bronchoscopy helps diagnose lung problems, look for blockages, take out samples of tissue and/or fluid, and/or to help remove a foreign body. Bronchoscopy may include a biopsy or bronchoalveolar lavage.
Taking out a small piece of tissue, cells, or fluid from the lung so they can be examined under a microscope.
Removing cells from the lower respiratory tract to help identify inflammation and rule out certain causes.
This test measures the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood. Other blood tests may be used to look for possible infections and other problems.
This imaging test uses X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the lungs. CT scans are more detailed than regular X-rays. They can be used to diagnose lung diseases, monitor disease progression, and evaluate response to treatment.
There is no cure for most occupational lung diseases. Treatments are aimed at:
Treatment depends on the type of lung disease. There is no way to fix lung scarring that has already occurred.
Occupational lung diseases are preventable. The best prevention is to avoid the inhaled substances that cause lung problems. Other preventive measures include:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
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