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Work-Related Asthma

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Work-Related Asthma, Occupational Asthma, Work-Aggravated Asthma, Asthma in the Workplace, Occupational Lung Disease

  • Epidemiology
  1. Occupational Asthma accounts for 15% of new Asthma cases in adults
    1. Estimated 1.9 million new cases/year (2012)
    2. (2012) MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 25;61(20):375-8 [PubMed]
  • Types
  • Occupational Lung Disease
  1. Work-Aggravated Asthma
    1. Preexisting Asthma worsened by workplace exposure
    2. See Intrinsic Asthma
  2. Occupational Asthma
    1. Allergic Occupational Asthma (90% of cases)
      1. Caused by sensitizers (immune-mediated response)
      2. High molecular weight sensitizers induce IgE response and are most common
    2. Irritant-induced Asthma (10% of cases)
      1. Reactive Airway Dysfunction Syndrome
      2. Irritants cause direct cell damage and inflammation
  3. Non-Asthma Occupational Lung Disease
    1. Occupational COPD (accounts for 15-19% of all COPD cases)
      1. Associated with exposures to coal dust, silica, cotton dust, and cadmium fumes
      2. Compounded by concurrent Tobacco use
    2. Interstitial Lung Disease
      1. Asbestosis
      2. Eosinophilic Pneumonia
      3. Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis or extrinsic allergic alveolitis (bird fancier’s lung, farmer’s lung)
      4. Silicosis
  • Risk Factors
  1. Atopy
  2. Tobacco abuse
  • Findings
  1. See Asthma
  • Approach
  1. Diagnose Asthma
    1. Spirometry
  2. Determine if Asthma is work related
    1. Pre-work and post-work Spirometry
    2. Serial Peak Expiratory Flow log four times daily
    3. Symptoms improve on days away from work
  3. Determine type of Occupational Asthma (see above)
    1. Work-Aggravated Asthma (Preexisting Asthma worsened by workplace exposure)
    2. Allergic Occupational Asthma
    3. Irritant-induced Asthma
  • Management
  1. Completely avoid causative agent
    1. However, up to 70% of patients have persistent symptoms for years after exposure cessation
  2. Treat with standard Asthma Management (e.g. Inhaled Corticosteroids, Bronchodilators)
    1. See Asthma Management
    2. Tobacco Cessation
  • Prevention
  1. Offending irritant or allergen exposure
  2. Adequate respiratory protection
  • Resources
  1. National Institute Occupational Safety Health (NIOSH)
    1. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/homepage.html
  2. Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA)
    1. http://www.osha.gov/index.html
  3. American Thoracic Society - Occupational Lung Disease
    1. https://www.thoracic.org/patients/patient-resources/breathing-in-america/resources/chapter-13-occupational-lung-diseases.pdf