Silicosis is a dust-disease of the lungs caused by inhaling silica which comes from sand, rock or quartz, like the fine quartz dust one breathes in on South African gold mines.
If too much dust is inhaled, the miner will probably develop silicosis.
Silicosis is scarring of the spongy parts of the lungs. Tiny scars form around the millions of small air sacs in the lungs and these eventually over 10 or more years cause the miner to have shortness of breath.
Silicosis is diagnosed in ex-miners using chest x-rays. Doctors also need to examine the ex-miner and do lung function tests to see how bad the silicosis is.
A miner with Silicosis can also get TB more easily
Silicosis is a progressive disease, and the scarring in the lungs can worsen over time even if the miner is no longer working in dusty conditions. This means that it can develop many years after working on the mines. As the scarring worsens, the scars inside the lungs grow together and get bigger and bigger. If the scars grow to 1cm or more in size, its called PMF, which is a definite worsening of silicosis.
There is no specific treatment for silicosis. People with silicosis should be extra careful not to breathe in dust, and also ensure that any cough or other chest symptoms they develop gets treated early, especially because it might be TB which is worse in people with silicosis.