OCCUPATIONAL LUNG DISEASES

Our Approach to Treatment

Experts at Houston Methodist and Houston Methodist Lung Center have vast experience in diagnosing and treating lung diseases caused by on-the-job chemical, dust and fiber inhalation. Our specialists have studied effects such exposures can have on the lungs and have participated in writing federal safety guidelines to limit workplace risks.

Houston Methodist’s accomplished pulmonologists have established a reputation among their colleagues and Houston’s industrial community for their mastery of occupational exposure diagnoses and management. They have the expertise to ask the right questions to determine exposure causes and develop treatments to get patients back to work as soon as possible.

Our specialists also diagnose and treat patients who inadvertently expose themselves to materials such as dusts, particles, chemicals and glues associated with home construction and renovation projects, weekend hobbies and routine swimming pool and house cleaning.

Definition
A group of lung conditions caused or made worse by a work environment such as:
  • Asbestosis – affecting patients who have worked with and inhaled asbestos
  • Pneumoconiosis –  caused by inhaled particles, including coal dust
  • Silicosis – caused by inhaling crystalline silica, a material in sand, dirt and granite
  • Beryllium disease –  caused by inhaling beryllium, affecting aerospace and castings workers 
  • Flock worker's lung – affecting people working with synthetic fibers
  • Occupational asthma –  caused by inhaling workplace substances, which swell and narrow airways

Causes
Inhalation of certain materials, including:
  • Air particles, including dusts, pollens, molds, dirt, sand, granite, ashes, fibers and soot
  • Gases, fumes and vapors

Symptoms
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Chest tightness
  • Abnormal breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss

Diagnosis
  • Lung function tests
  • Blood tests, depending on exposure 
  • Chest X-ray, read by a doctor certified by the National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health
  • Chest CT scan
  • Bronchoscopy 
  • Biopsy 
  • Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery – a minimally invasive technique used to diagnose and treat chest problems
  • Methacholine challenge – a test to diagnose asthma

Treatments
  • Identifying and eliminating irritant exposures
  • Air filtration and purification
  • Medications
  • Respiratory protection, based on exposure
  • Engineering controls – methods built in plant, equipment or process designs to minimize hazards
  • Lung transplant, in some cases

TREATMENT LOCATIONS

Our physicians at Houston Methodist specialize in managing occupational lung diseases at the following convenient locations: