"Grinder’s rot", "Potter’s rot", and "Stonemason’s disease" are all names that were used in the past to describe the commonest of the occupational lung diseases, silicosis. Although less common nowadays a number of people are still diagnosed every year with this incurable disease. Silicosis develops over time when dust-containing silica is inhaled into the lungs. Other examples of occupational lung diseases include coal worker’s pneumoconiosis and asbestosis.
For some unknown reason silica in crystalline form is toxic to the lining of the lungs. When they come into contact with each other a strong inflammatory reaction occurs. Over time this inflammation causes the lung tissue to become irreversibly thickened and scarred called fibrosis.
The most common form of silicosis is called chronic silicosis, and the symptoms develop over many years of exposure. However, in the rarer form, called acute silicosis, the symptoms develop very quickly after only a short period of exposure to high levels of silica dust.
Because this disease may be debilitating, it is very important to seek medical treatment as soon as possible. The Treatment Options section describes how to Relieve the Symptoms, Lifestyle Changes, and What to Ask your Doctor. In our Financial Assistance section, we discuss how patients and their families may be helped with medical bills and financial concerns.
Because silicosis is linked to silica dust exposure, see our At Risk Jobs and Exposure section to find out if you or a loved one has worked in a job associated with silica dust exposure and to find out how to prevent further exposure.