Silicosis is an ancient and potentially fatal pneumoconiosis caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica. Silicosis is historically a disease of miners; however, failure to recognize and control the risk associated with silica exposure in contemporary work practices such as sandblasting denim jeans and manufacturing of artificial stone benchtops has led to re-emergence of silicosis around the world. This review outlines the mineralogy, epidemiology, clinical and radiological features of the various forms of silicosis and other silica-associated diseases. Perspective is provided on the most recent studies shedding light on pathogenesis, including the central role of innate immune effector cells and subsequent inflammatory cascades in propagating pulmonary fibrosis and the extrapulmonary manifestations, which uniquely characterize this pneumoconiosis. Clinical conundrums in differential diagnosis, particularly between silicosis and sarcoidosis, are highlighted, as is the importance of obtaining a careful occupational history in the patient presenting with pulmonary infiltrates and/or fibrosis. While silicosis is a completely preventable disease, unfortunately workers around the world continue to be affected and experience progressive or even fatal disease. Although no treatments have been proven, opportunities to intervene to prevent progressive disease, founded in a thorough cellular and molecular understanding of the immunopathology of silicosis, are highlighted.
- autoimmune disease