Interstitial lung disease is a medical name for a group of conditions that affect the lungs. Many of these conditions are related to occupation. These conditions cause scar tissue and inflammation to develop, which, consequently makes it harder for the lungs to work properly. In most cases, interstitial lung disease affects the soft tissues in the lungs, but these conditions can also affect the air sacs, airways and blood vessels.
Interstitial lung disease affects the interstitium, or the network of tissues that run throughout both lungs. This network works as a support system for the alveoli – the tiny air sacs that make up the lungs. All throughout the interstitium are blood vessels, and together this network is what allows blood to receive oxygen and discard carbon dioxide.
When the interstitium network is compromised, scar tissue and inflammation develop. With most interstitial lung diseases, this is due to inhaling some form of toxin or particles, or can also be caused by certain autoimmune disorders.
Types of Interstitial Lung Disease
Interstitial lung disease is a term used to describe lung disorders. The American Thoracic Society notes that there are more than 200 individual disorders that can be classified as interstitial lung disease. Among those are the more common diseases including:
- Silicosis: Silicosis is an incurable lung disease caused by inhaling silica dust.
- Interstitial Pneumonia: An infection of the interstitium in the lungs.
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis: Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is inflammation of the lungs due to inhaling allergens or irritants.
- Pneumoconiosis: A lung disorder that is caused by inhaling coal dust. Also called “black lung.”
- Asbestosis: Asbestosis is inflammation or development of scar tissue due to inhaling asbestos fibers.
- Sarcoidosis: Inflammation that affects the interstitium, but can also affect nerves, joints, skin, eyes and the heart.
Who is At Risk?
Environmental toxins are a common cause of interstitial lung disease, especially diseases like silicosis. Workers in a variety of occupations are particularly at risk for developing lung disorders, such as:
- Construction workers
- Maritime workers
- Fracking sand workers
- Glass workers
- Granite workers
- Porcelain, ceramic and clay workers
Workers in these occupations are especially vulnerable to interstitial lung disease because they are exposed to environmental toxins including:
Exposure to silica dust is a particular concern since crystalline silica is found in most rocks, dirt, gravel and sand.
Understanding Interstitial Lung Disease
The symptoms associated with lung diseases vary depending on the exact diagnosis. However, generally speaking, there are some symptoms that workers should be mindful of. These include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic cough
- Unexplained or sudden weight loss
These symptoms may occur suddenly, or develop over time. Many lung disorders develop slowly, and progress over time causing additional symptoms as a result of progression.
Diagnosing lung diseases generally follows a prescribed set of events. In order to get a correct diagnosis, you can expect the following:
- A thorough physical exam
- A review of your work history and lifestyle
- Imaging tests (x-ray, computed tomography (CT), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Pulmonary function tests (breathing tests)
- Lung biopsy
These are general diagnostic procedures. Your diagnostic process may vary depending on your symptoms and work history.
Treating interstitial lung disease often aims at controlling symptoms and slowing down progression. Diseases like silicosis are considered incurable, but treatment can help you be more comfortable and have an improved quality of life. The most common treatment options for lung disorders include:
- Oxygen treatments
- Lung transplant in severe cases
Unfortunately, many of the disorders classified as interstitial lung disease are incurable. There are treatment options that can manage symptoms, improve quality of life and slow down progression. It is important to get an accurate diagnosis of your lung disorder in order to get the treatment you need.
Without proper treatment, these disorders can lead to complications including respiratory failure, heart failure or pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure).
Interstitial Lung Disease and Your Legal Rights
Many people diagnosed with interstitial lung disease have worked in an occupation that exposed them to harmful substances. Researchers have consistently reported that lung diseases like silicosis are preventable, and therefore, are caused by negligence.
Sadly, many employers fail to properly train workers, ensure a safe environment and equip workers with proper personal protective equipment (PPE). As a result of employer negligence workers inhale harmful substances and develop serious and incurable lung diseases. This is a violation of your legal rights.
If you are concerned about interstitial lung disease, or have been diagnosed with silicosis, mesothelioma or another occupational disease, contact Silicosis Help. Our legal team will certainly review your situation and will help determine if you have an actionable claim. If so, you may be able to recover damages for your medical expenses, lost wages and more.
To find out more about your legal rights, call Silicosis Help toll free at 855-489-7853, or fill out our online contact form.