Michael Burgis & Associates, P.C.

Respiratory issues you face after decades in the workforce

The air you breathe on the job is not always as clean and pure as it should be. Carpenters deal with constant wood dust in the air. Home renovators may breathe in asbestos. Factory workers could deal with mold. Workers who use strong chemicals can inhale all manner of fumes.

Over time, you may stop thinking about the sheer amount of exposure you get, but it can take a serious toll. Even when you don't breathe in that much of a contaminant with every individual breath, spending years or even decades breathing that air puts you at a serious disadvantage. You could wind up with some type of occupational respiratory disease.

What are the diseases?

Of course, the type of disease you get may depend on your occupation and the specific exposure that you saw. Doctors note that four main types are:

  • Silicosis
  • Asbestosis
  • Pneumoconiosis
  • Allergic alveolitis

Let's break some of these down a bit more, starting with coal workers' pneumoconiosis. You may have heard this referred to as the Black Lung Disease. It's common in the coal mining industry because workers simply get exposed to so much coal dust on the job. These particles make their way into people's lungs and become trapped there.

The body knows that these foreign particles do not belong, and it attempts to get rid of them. This can lead to inflammation as part of your immune response. It can lead to serious coughing and trouble breathing. When the damage is bad enough and lasts for long enough, you can even wind up with fibrosis, which is scarring of lung tissues.

The same basic issue applies to any particles you inhale, though some are worse than others. If you breathe in asbestos, for instance, the tiny particles become trapped indefinitely and can actually lead to cancer.

What your doctor wants to know

If you end up going to see a doctor, you need to give them as much information as possible. This includes:

  • What symptoms you have
  • How long you've had them
  • When you experience them
  • What exposure you suspect
  • What jobs you have held
  • If you smoke or have any related hobbies
  • What your medical history looks like
  • What precautions you take on the job

They can do tests to determine what you're dealing with and how to treat it, but providing all of the information you can allows them to treat you more quickly and effectively.

Your rights

Of course, seeking medical treatment for something that happened at work means you may need to look into your legal rights to workers' compensation. Speaking with an experienced attorney can answer a lot of the legal questions you may have had.

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