Berylliosis

(Beryllium Disease)

Definition

Berylliosis is a lung disease that affects people exposed to beryllium. Beryllium is a metallic element that is found in rocks, coal, soil, and volcanic dust and used in certain industries.The 2 types of berylliosis are:
  • Acute—Caused by brief exposure. It is rare today.
  • Chronic—Caused by long-term exposure. It is more common than acute, but still unusual.

Causes

Berylliosis is caused by inhalation of beryllium dust or fumes or other exposure such as through an open skin wound.Berylliosis usually only occurs in people who have an allergic sensitivity to beryllium.

Risk Factors

The primary risk factor for berylliosis is working in an area where beryllium is processed. Industries that use beryllium include:
  • Aerospace
  • Electronics
  • Fiber-optics
  • Mining
  • Nuclear weapons and reactors
  • Laboratory technologies
  • Dental alloy preparation
  • Scrap metal
  • Manufacturing of:
    • Mirrors
    • Golf clubs
    • Microwaves
    • Bicycle frames
People who live near such industries have a slightly higher risk of getting berylliosis than those who do not, but the risk is extremely low.

Symptoms

Symptoms of acute berylliosis come on suddenly and rapidly. The main symptoms are due to severe lung inflammation. These symptoms include:
  • Coughing, possibly bringing up blood-tinged sputum
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
Inflammation in Lungs
Inflammed Lung and asthma
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Symptoms of chronic berylliosis may include:
  • Dry cough
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
Symptoms of chronic berylliosis develop slowly. Sometimes, symptoms may not appear until many years after exposure to beryllium. Chronic berylliosis produces two main changes:
  • Scarring of the lung tissue
  • Formation of granulomas (inflammatory masses) in the lungs and sometimes other organs
In severe cases, berylliosis may lead to heart failure.

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