Coal Workers pneumoconiosis (CWP), commonly known as black lung disease is a lung condition in which the color of lungs changes from pink to black. The disease is specific to inhaling coal dust and is limited to the workers of coal mines and those who get exposed to coal dust. Pneumoconiosis is the accumulation of dust in the lungs and it can be of other types as well. The black lung disease is caused only by coal dust though.
The only cause of black lung disease is exposure to coal dust. It can occur to people who work in the mining industry, work in the rubber industry where carbon black is used as a raw material for manufacturing rubber goods, graphite extraction sites or the people who are involved in loading and storage of coal.
The disease can be of two types. The simple and the complicated CWP that also involves another condition known as pulmonary massive fibrosis in which the lung tissues are damaged and breathing becomes difficult.
The type of disease depends on how long a patient is exposed to coal dust? How much coal dust is inhaled by him and the type of the coal dust.
Diagnosis of black lung disease can be tricky. It mimics the symptoms of many other lung diseases.
Coughing, excessive phlegm production and shortness of breath are some of the symptoms that can be similar to bronchitis or pneumonia.
An extinguishing symptom is inability to breathe while lying.
Another problem with the disease is its not showing any symptoms on the onset. The lungs may be accumulating coal dust over time without creating a significant change in the lifestyle of the patient.
For the safety of the coal workers, it is necessary to meet their primary care provider to have a clear picture of their health condition.
If any of the coal mine workers experience any symptoms related to CWP, they should seek for the support programs for this disease. The eligible coal mine workers get coverage for their treatment, while in case of death with CWP; the government pays funds to the family members.
Diagnosis of black lung disease can be tricky. As stated earlier, the symptoms of the disease are quite similar to other diseases. However, an occupational history of the potential patient is the only tool to diagnose.
It is the doctor’s duty to get a complete history of the patient showing symptoms such as chest tightness and shortness of breath to ask him about the profession he is in.
The doctor may order a pulmonary function test and a chest x-ray to see abnormalities in the lungs.
There are no treatments available to the disease. The doctors only aid the patient for a symptomatic treatment. For blocked airways they prescribe inhalers. Cough and phlegm may be managed with prescription medicines or oxygen may be prescribed if the patient’s oxygen level is dropping.
The coal dust inhalation is worsened if the patient is also a smoker. It can irreversibly damage the lungs, so the doctor will ask the patient to quit smoking.
In the most severe cases, the only option is a lung transplant.