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Silicosis Information Center

Silicosis is an occupational lung disease characterized by inflammation and scarring of the lung tissue. The formation of scar tissue inhibits the flow of oxygen into the lungs and into the bloodstream.


The earliest symptoms of silicosis may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Occasional bluish skin at ear lobes or lips
  • Fever

As silicosis progresses, more severe symptoms such as pulmonary and cardiac impairment will occur. In some cases, pulmonary function will be impaired to the point where the patient will need to be supplied with oxygen.

Silicosis Health Problems

In addition to the symptoms listed above, silicosis patients are at an increased risk for tuberculosis, heart disease, lung cancer, and connective tissue disease.

  • Tuberculosis - a bacterial infection that causes the formation of tubercles (lesions) in the lungs. Experts do not know why silicosis sufferers are at an increased risk for tuberculosis, but they theorize that silicosis depresses the immune system, increasing the risk of bacterial infection.
  • Heart disease - the formation of scar tissue in the lungs requires the heart to work harder to move blood throughout the body. As a result, it increases the risk of heart failure.
  • Lung cancer - for unknown reasons, silicosis sufferers are at an increased risk for lung cancer.
  • Connective tissue disease - a group of diseases that include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, rheumatic fever, and systemic sclerosis. Evidence suggests that these diseases may originate from an autoimmune response.
  • Chronic bronchitis - associated with airflow obstruction and a chronic cough. This disease is common among workers who are exposed to silica.
  • Silicoproteinosis - a fatal lung disease characterized by the decreased ability of the lungs to produce oxygen.
  • Lung Fibrosis - Pulmonary (lung) Fibrosis, is a scarring of the lungs, and is the consequence of untreated pulmonary inflammation.
  • Emphysema - Emphysema is a condition in which there is over-inflation of structures in the lungs known as alveoli or air sacs. This over-inflation results from a breakdown of the walls of the alveoli, which causes a decrease in respiratory function (the way the lungs work) and often, breathlessness.

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