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Berylliosis or Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD) is a chronic allergic-type lung response and chronic lung disease caused by exposure to beryllium and its compounds, a material commonly used in industries due to its physical properties such as being lighter than aluminum yet stiffer than steel, and its ability to conduct electricity and heat. It is classified as an occupational illness, primarily affecting workers in industries such as aerospace, nuclear power, and manufacturing of electrical components where beryllium is processed.

Causes and Risk Factors[edit | edit source]

Berylliosis develops when an individual inhales beryllium particles or dust, leading to an immune response in susceptible individuals. Not everyone exposed to beryllium will develop CBD; genetic factors may play a role in determining susceptibility. Chronic exposure to even small amounts of beryllium can lead to this condition.

Symptoms[edit | edit source]

The primary symptoms of berylliosis include shortness of breath, cough, fatigue, weight loss, fever, and night sweats. Due to its nonspecific symptoms, CBD can be difficult to diagnose and may be mistaken for other lung conditions such as sarcoidosis or pulmonary fibrosis.

Diagnosis[edit | edit source]

Diagnosis of berylliosis involves a combination of a medical history of beryllium exposure, clinical symptoms, radiographic findings, and lung function tests. A definitive diagnosis can be made with a lung biopsy showing granulomas or through a blood test known as the beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test (BeLPT), which measures the immune system's sensitivity to beryllium.

Treatment[edit | edit source]

There is no cure for berylliosis, but treatments are available to manage symptoms. Treatment options may include corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, oxygen therapy for those with difficulty breathing, and pulmonary rehabilitation to improve lung function. Avoiding further exposure to beryllium is crucial for those diagnosed with or susceptible to CBD.

Prevention[edit | edit source]

Prevention of berylliosis involves controlling airborne beryllium dust and particles through the use of ventilation systems, wet methods to reduce dust, personal protective equipment (PPE), and regular health screenings for workers exposed to beryllium.

Epidemiology[edit | edit source]

The incidence of berylliosis is not well-documented due to underreporting and the difficulty in diagnosing the disease. However, it is known to be more common among workers in industries where beryllium is mined, processed, or used in manufacturing.

See Also[edit | edit source]


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD