Silicosis is a fibrotic lung disease caused by inhalation of free crystalline silicon dioxide or silica. Occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust particles occurs in many industries. Phagocytosis of crystalline silica in the lung causes lysosomal damage, activating the NALP3 inflammasome and triggering the inflammatory cascade with subsequent fibrosis. Impairment of lung function increases with disease progression, even after the patient is no longer exposed. Diagnosis of silicosis needs carefully documented records of occupational exposure and radiological features, with exclusion of other competing diagnoses. Mycobacterial diseases, airway obstruction, and lung cancer are associated with silica dust exposure. As yet, no curative treatment exists, but comprehensive management strategies help to improve quality of life and slow deterioration. Further efforts are needed for recognition and control of silica hazards, especially in developing countries.
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