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How Silicosis Is Treated

There is no cure for silicosis and once the damage is done it cannot be reversed. Treatment is focused on slowing down the progression of the disease and relieving symptoms. Avoiding further exposure to silica and other irritants such as cigarette smoke is crucial. Testing for tuberculosis is important because the disease tends to be more severe in persons with silicosis.

Once your doctor determines the degree of lung damage that has been done, they will be able to provide you with a treatment plan. This may include:

  • Using a bronchodilator to help relax your air tubes and decrease inflammation.
  • Quitting smoking as soon as possible. Smoking can increase the damage done by silica and speed up the progression of the disease. The American Lung Association offers proven-effective smoking cessation programs to give people trying to quit the support they need.
  • Supplemental oxygen may be prescribed to help you get more air into your lungs when needed. Though you may need it only while exercising at the beginning, as the disease progresses you may need it at all times. Learn more about oxygen therapy.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation is an exercise program designed to help all patients with chronic lung conditions maintain optimal activity levels.
  • In very severe situations, your doctor may suggest surgery and refer you to a lung transplant specialist.

Managing Silicosis

To keep the disease from getting worse, all silicosis patients need to eliminate any more exposure to silica. Other lung irritants, such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, allergens and smoke, should also be avoided.

Your doctor can help manage your symptoms, but you can also take steps to keep yourself healthy by doing the following:

  • Maintain weight and nutrition with a well-balanced diet.
  • Stay as active as you can by exercising regularly but be careful not to overexert yourself.
  • Prevent respiratory infections that can make your lungs worse. Get vaccinated against the flu every year, and pneumococcal pneumonia as recommended by your doctor.
  • Be vigilant about watching for the development of TB or other infections and see your doctor immediately if one develops.
  • Have a plan to manage flare-ups of the disease.

Finding Support

The Lung Association recommends patients and caregivers join our Living with Lung Disease Support Community to connect with others facing this disease. You can also call the Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA to talk to a trained respiratory professional who can help answer your questions and connect you with support. Ask your healthcare provider about lung disease support groups in your area, or look online for a Better Breathers Club near you.

Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.

Page last updated: March 12, 2020

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