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Cecile Rose, MD, MPH
Section Editor
Talmadge E King, Jr, MD
Deputy Editor
Helen Hollingsworth, MD


Silicosis refers to a spectrum of pulmonary diseases caused by inhalation of free crystalline silica (silicon dioxide). The written record of occupational lung disease caused by silica inhalation extends back to ancient Egypt and Greece. Despite a clear understanding of how to prevent this disease, new cases of silicosis continue to occur [1-6].

The clinical presentations, diagnostic evaluation, and treatment of silicosis will be reviewed here. The imaging of occupational lung disease and the evaluation of pulmonary disability are discussed separately. (See "Imaging of occupational lung diseases" and "Evaluation of pulmonary disability".)


Several clinical presentations of disease have been described:

Acute silicosis – Acute silicosis, also known as acute silicoproteinosis, develops after exposure to high concentrations of respirable crystalline silica and results in symptoms within a few weeks to a few years after the initial exposure.

Chronic silicosis – Chronic silicosis usually has the radiographic pattern described below as simple silicosis. In a minority of those with chronic disease, nodules coalesce resulting in progressive massive fibrosis (PMF).


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