Byssinosis : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : Cotton worker’s lung, Cotton bract disease, Mill fever, Brown lung

Definition

Byssinosis is a disease of the lungs brought on by breathing in cotton dust or dusts from other vegetable fibers such as flax, hemp, or sisal while at work.

See also: Occupational asthma

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Breathing in the dust produced by raw cotton can cause byssinosis. It is most common in people who work in the textile industry. Those who are sensitive to the dust can have an asthma-like condition after being exposed. In those with asthma, being exposed to the dust makes breathing more difficult, but in byssinosis, the symptoms usually go away by the end of the work week. After long periods of exposure, symptoms can continue throughout the week without improving.

Methods of prevention in the U.S. have reduced the number of cases, but byssinosis is still common in developing countries. Smoking increases the risk for this disease. Being exposed to the dust many times can lead to chronic lung disease and shortness of breath or wheezing.

Pictures & Images

Lungs

The major features of the lungs include the bronchi, the bronchioles and the alveoli. The alveoli are the microscopic blood vessel-lined sacks in which oxygen and carbon dioxide gas are exchanged.


Review Date : 7/15/2008
Reviewed By : Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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