Beryllium is defined as a metal utilized in the production of various products including computers, cars, electrical equipment and even golf clubs. It is a non-magnetic, light and ideal conductor of electricity and heat which is why it is widely utilized.
Close look on beryllium disease
Beryllium disease can develop if beryllium fumes or dust have been inhaled. It is important that there are 2 forms:
- Acute – this form is considered rare today. Improved workplace safety regulations prevent large amounts of beryllium responsible for the condition from being released into the air.
- Chronic – this form is linked with inhalation of beryllium powder or fumes. If an individual was exposed, he/she is sensitized to the metal before progressing to this form.
Remember that there is no health threat linked with exposure to solid beryllium but both powder and solid forms can trigger irritation if exposed with damaged skin.
What are the signs?
During the initial phases of the disease, there are no symptoms at all or only a few. Once the individual starts to develop the chronic form, inflammation arises in the lungs as a reaction to the foreign substance.
The usual response of the lungs to beryllium exposure is to buildup collections of cells or granulomas that can cause scarring inside the lungs. This scarring lessens the ability of the lungs of function. After some time, the inflammatory response continues, and symptoms later arise such as:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Weight loss
- Appetite loss
- Joint pain
Take note that there is no cure for the chronic form, but the symptoms can be managed. All individuals diagnosed with sensitization or the chronic form are instructed to avoid further exposure.
Corticosteroids which lessen inflammation have been frequently used as treatment for the chronic form.
The commonly used corticosteroid for the chronic form of beryllium disease is prednisone. Even though there is no standard dose, most doctors start with 40 mg taken daily or every other day. The doctor monitors the response of the individual to the medication and make the necessary adjustments.
If the condition of the individual does not improve with steroids, the doctor might prescribe methotrexate.