Symptoms Of Byssinosis Disease: Causes, Diagnosis & Management

Byssinosis is an occupational lung disease caused due to frequent exposure of cotton, hemp and flex dust. This rare disease is also known as brown lung disease. The symptom manifestation of this disease is similar to asthma. People who work with unprocessed cotton are at greater risk of suffering from byssinosis.

It is mostly observed in people working in cotton yarn and fabric manufacturing industries or among those who open the cotton bales before it is taken for processing in textile industry. The dust that is inhaled causes obstruction of the small airways in lung called bronchioles.

The person remains free from symptoms when he discontinues remaining in such environment. Prolonged frequent exposure to cotton, hemp and flex dust for 20 to 25 years can cause permanent damage to the lungs.

What Are The Symptoms Of Byssinosis?

The symptoms of byssinosis appear when the worker joins his work after a break. As the week progresses the severity of symptoms become more pronounced. Some patients may develop mild fever 2 to 3 hours after exposure to cotton dust. Fever lasts for one day and it may be accompanied with flu like symptoms such as shivering, muscle pain and tiredness.

Hence some people also refer this disease as Monday fever. These patients experience improvement in the symptoms during the weekend as they are not exposed to the cotton dust particles, when out of work. The symptoms of byssinosis are similar to asthma with mild to severe breathlessness, tightness in chest, cough and wheezing.

As the condition worsens after few years of frequent exposure, the symptoms do not ease at the end of week. This is a chronic form of byssinosis. The disease is sometimes mistaken to be emphysema or chronic bronchitis. Patient may have persistent cough, shortness of breath and mild fever in chronic byssinosis. Smokers suffering from byssinosis may present with exaggerated symptoms.

Causes Of Byssinosis Disease

Byssinosis is a lung disease caused due to inhaling tiny dust particles of cotton, hemp and flax. It is considered to be an occupational lung disease. People working in cotton textile mills and industries which deal with raw cotton are the usual sufferers. The exact cause of byssinosis is not fully understood, but it is believed to be a result of exposure to endotoxins of bacteria present in cotton. Every textile worker is not affected with byssinosis, but it is frequently observed in workers who smoke cigarettes.

The inhaled cotton dust particles causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways. Thus it reduces the airflow in the lungs and impacts the lung function. As the duration of the disease prolongs patient frequently suffers from pulmonary infection. Long term implication can cause permanent damage to the lungs.

Diagnosis And Management Of Byssinosis

A thorough and detailed medical history along with physical examination is important for diagnosis of byssinosis. Doctors usually suspect this medical condition if the person has history of exposure to cotton dust or he is working in cotton textile industry.

The symptoms are similar to asthma, but they usually alleviate during the weekend when the worker is not on his duty. This typical history is taken into consideration, especially if the person is a smoker. Clinical tests such as lung function test, CT scan and X-ray chest are other tools that may help to diagnose the condition.

The first treatment of byssinosis is to avoid further exposure to the dust particles. Patient is encouraged to select other occupation which does not involve exposure to environmental harmful substances. Workers who smoke cigarette are advised to abandon smoking.

In mild to moderate cases of byssinosis, patient is prescribed bronchodilators. This drug helps to dilate the constricted air passage. In severe cases additional corticosteroid is prescribed that reduces inflammation of the airways.

In cases where the lung has considerably damaged and its function is weak, nebulizer and supplemental oxygen therapy will be beneficial. Patient is also advised to do breathing exercises to strengthen the lung function.

Byssinosis usually cures once the patient is not further exposed to the harmful cotton dust. However, in patients whose lungs have been damaged, symptoms may need treatment for a long time.

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