What is Byssinosis?
Byssinosis is a chronic lung disease affecting some workers in cotton and cotton-related industries. Beginning as asthma, it could have serious consequences if undiagnosed, but it is easy to treat in the early stages.
Byssinosis Disease Definition:
Byssinosis is a disease thought to be an allergy, which results in asthma amongst people working with the products of cotton, flax, hemp or sisal. Only those working continuously with these materials are affected and the disease does not develop until after some years of occupational exposure.
The illness has a cyclical nature: it begins on Monday, reaches its greatest severity that afternoon, there are daily mid-afternoon relapses which become less severe as the week progresses. Because of this characteristic, it has been called ‘Monday Fever’.
What causes Byssinosis?
The exact cause of the disease is unknown, but one theory is that it could be the result of an allergic reaction to cotton and similar products which happens because sufferers develop an antibody to the product in their blood, and they produce histamine (the body chemical which triggers allergy symptoms) from special cells called mast cells when exposed to the product. However, only a proportion of similarly exposed workers develop the disease – and not always those who have a family history of allergies. Similar levels of antibody are found in the blood of both asthmatic and non-asthmatic workers, so an allergic reaction cannot be the only explanation. It could simply be that cotton and similar products act as a lung irritant.
What are the symptoms of Byssinosis disease?
Early in the disease the symptoms are those of asthma alone, including wheezing and coughing, and these are most marked on Monday afternoon after a weekend off and they gradually improve throughout the week. In acute byssinosis, the following symptoms are found:
- Chest Tightness: The person suffering from acute from this disease may feel the bothersome and painful chest tightness.
- Coughing: Coughing is a typical symptom which remains persistently in acute case of byssinosis.
- Dyspnea: Individual may suffer from dyspnea which is the name of the shortness of breath.
- Respiratory Trouble: Chronic byssinosis get worse with the time and may lead to serious respiratory trouble.
After several years, chronic bronchitis sets in: the cough becomes more predominant and the patient brings up sputum. Many years of exposure causes permanent lung damage.
Diagnosis Process of Byssinosis:
- Medical and Family History Reviewed: A detailed medical history as well as the information of his occupational exposure, family history of asthma are evaluated for the proper diagnosis of this disease.
- Test of Lung Function: Pulmonary function tests, such as spirometry can be done for determining the extent of the disease.
- Chest X-rays: Chest X-rays can reveal lung abnormalities if anyone is suffering from this disease.
Prevention of Byssinosis:
- Use of Respirators: This disease generally occurs to the workers in the cotton textile industries. So the workers, especially in this industries should use proper respiratory protection such as N95 masks to protect themselves from byssinosis.
- Ventilation: In the cotton and textile industries, effective ventilation systems can assist lower the concentration of airborne dust.
- Regular Cleaning: Keeping workplaces clean and maintained on a regular basis help to reduce the dust buildup.
- Regular Health Checkups: To detect the disease of byssinosis early, the workers exposed to cotton or textile industries should have routine health checkups.
Treatment of Byssinosis:
It is recommended that the sufferer give up his or her job as prolonged exposure can have such dangerous effects. Government compensation is available in some countries. The only effective medicine to help relieve the symptoms of this disease is an inhaled corticosteroid drug.
Outlook of Byssinosis Disease:
Before the disease was recognized, the outlook for sufferers was grim, many dying of chronic bronchitis. Now-a-days, with early diagnosis and the provision of good treatment and adequate financial compensation, byssinosis is no longer a problem.
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