Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What are the symptoms of silicosis?

Symptoms of silicosis may first appear 15 to 20 years after someone's exposure to crystalline silica. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe cough
  • Weakness

If you have silica in your lungs, your body may not be able to fight infections well. This can lead to other illnesses that can cause:

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Chest pains
  • Respiratory failure

As the disease progresses over time, these symptoms can become worse.

How is silicosis diagnosed?

  • Medical history—including many questions about your current and past jobs, hobbies, and other activities through which you may have been exposed to silica
  • Physical exam

Tests to confirm silicosis and rule out similar diseases:

How is silicosis treated?

Silicosis does not have a specific treatment.

  • Your healthcare provider may prescribe cough medicine, bronchodilators (medications that help open your airways to help you breathe more easily), and oxygen.
  • You may need antibiotics for any respiratory infections.
  • To keep the disease from getting worse, it is important to stay away from any additional sources of silica and other lung irritants, such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, allergens, and smoke.
  • If you smoke, quit now.

Routine tuberculosis tests are recommended for people with silicosis because they are at high risk for developing tuberculosis (TB). Scientists believe that silica interferes with the body's immune response to the bacteria that causes TB.  If you test positive for TB, you should be treated with anti-TB drugs.


Learn about preventing silicosis