Black lung is an environmental lung disease caused by breathing in a lot of coal dust over many years.
Black lung happens mainly in coal miners and others who work with coal
Your lungs look black inside because of the coal dust
You may have no symptoms at first but develop a cough and severe breathing problems if the disease gets worse
Doctors treat black lung with oxygen and medicines to make breathing easier
There are two types of black lung disease:
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.
Simple black lung usually has no symptoms. However, many people with this disease often have another lung disease, such as bronchitis or emphysema (especially smokers). Those lung diseases cause people to cough and be short of breath.
Complicated black lung causes severe symptoms such as:
Coughing and coughing up black mucus
Very severe shortness of breath
Heart failure (when your heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should)
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:
If you're a coal worker, you can do these things to help slow down and monitor the disease:
There's no treatment for the disease, but doctors can help lessen symptoms. To treat shortness of breath, doctors may prescribe:
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.