What is Berylliosis?

Berylliosis, or also called beryllium disease, is an occupational lung disease that can cause serious and even severe long-term health problems brought upon from exposure to beryllium dust. It is an incurable, chronic disease that occurs primarily in workers exposed regularly to airborne beryllium dust and/or fumes.

Symptoms of Berylliosis

The early symptoms of berylliosis can be very non-specific and difficult to diagnose such as fatigue, fever, weight loss and cough. As it progresses, berylliosis can affect the lungs, heart, and kidneys in various ways. Shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing up blood can also develop, however, the symptoms may vary from person to person, and only a physician can make a definitive diagnosis.

  • Bilateral Chest Pain
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Fatigue
  • Wheezing
  • Fever
  • Weight Loss
  • Coughing Up Blood
  • Chest Tightness
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes

Risk Factors

Individuals who work in the metalworking or aerospace industries, or those who are exposed to certain types of dust, are at a higher risk of developing berylliosis. Exposure to beryllium-containing alloys, fabrication, and machining processes can lead to the inhalation of beryllium particles.

Complications of Berylliosis

Those with berylliosis may experience a range of complications, including:

  • Lung Cancer - Berylliosis increases the risk of lung cancer. In fact, berylliosis is the only environmental factor known to increase lung cancer risk.
  • Heart Failure- Berylliosis can cause inflammation and fibrosis of the heart muscle, leading to heart failure.
  • Kidney Damage - Beryllium exposure can cause serious kidney damage, including kidney stones and a condition called beryllic nephritis.
  • Nervous System Damage - Nerve damage may result from exposure to beryllium and can include weakness, pain, and numbness.
  • Skin and Eye Irritation - Contact with beryllium particles can cause skin and eye irritation.

Treatment of Berylliosis

Currently, there is no cure for berylliosis. Treatment is focused on controlling symptoms, preventing complications, and reducing the amount of beryllium exposure. Inhaled corticosteroids may be used to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system, while antibiotics may be used to treat any secondary bacterial infections.