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Quick Facts

Black Lung

(Coal Workers' Pneumoconiosis)

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Mar 2021| Content last modified Mar 2021
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What is black lung?

There are two types of black lung disease:

  • Simple black lung

  • Complicated black lung, also called progressive massive fibrosis

Simple black lung disease is caused by coal dust collecting in the small airways in your lungs. Most people with simple black lung disease do not have any symptoms.

Some people with simple black lung get worse and develop complicated black lung. This causes large scars in your lungs and makes it very hard to breathe.

What causes black lung?

Black lung is caused by breathing in coal dust over a long period of time (usually more than 10 years).

What are the symptoms of black lung?

How can doctors tell if I have black lung?

How can I prevent black lung?

Prevention is important because there's no cure for black lung. Workplaces can help prevent black lung by preventing too much coal dust at the work site. They can use:

  • Ventilation systems

  • Face masks for workers

If you're a coal worker, you can do these things to help slow down and monitor the disease:

How do doctors treat black lung?

There's no treatment for the disease, but doctors can help lessen symptoms. To treat shortness of breath, doctors may prescribe:

  • Oxygen to make breathing easier

  • Pulmonary rehabilitation (a program to help you learn how to breathe with long-term lung disease)

  • Medicines to keep your airways open and free of mucus

Patients with complicated black lung may need a lung transplant. With a transplant, your failing lung is removed and replaced with a healthy one from a donor.

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