Black lung disease can be complicated to manage. With no known cure, physicians focus on the management of symptoms and complications. Also called pneumoconiosis, lungs are damaged by breathing in coal dust; triggering a variety of complications in the lungs. As coal dust is inhaled, the tiny air sacs deep in the lungs inflame and stiffen as scar tissue forms around the air sacs.
There are two types of black lung disease:
Black lung disease can lead to right sided heart failure, pulmonary tuberculosis, lung failure and lung cancer.
The disease is most common in patients who have worked in the coal industry; either in the mines, or at a coal processing facility. Black lung may also develop in adults who have worked in graphite, carbon electrode, or carbon black (tire) manufacturing.
The most common symptoms of black lung disease are a long-term cough and shortness of breath.
To diagnose black lung disease, patients will need a chest X-ray and pulmonary function testing. An occupational (job) history will also be taken.
There is no cure for black lung disease. Doctors may be able to treat complications from the disease and help patients manage symptoms as they develop. Management may include medications, therapy or surgery depending on the patient’s individual case.