Berylliosis is a lung disease due to beryllium exposure. Beryllium is a metal found in rocks, coal, soil, and volcanic dust. It is used in certain industries.
The two types of berylliosis are:
- Acute—caused by brief exposure
- Chronic—caused by long-term exposure
Berylliosis is caused by:
- Inhaling beryllium dust or fumes
- Other exposure—such as through an open skin wound
- A sensitivity to beryllium
The risk of this condition is highest in those who work near beryllium. Beryllium is used to make many items. Some examples are:
- Fiber optics
Symptoms of acute berylliosis come on quickly. With the chronic type, symptoms come on slowly. Symptoms may be:
- Coughing, possibly with blood
- Chest pain
- Problems breathing
- Weight loss
- Feeling very tried
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Chronic berylliosis leads to scarring of the lungs. It also leads to inflamed masses in the lungs called granulomas. In severe cases, it may lead toheart failure.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
Diagnosis is based on:
- A blood test called BeLPT (beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test)—shows sensitivity to beryllium
- Lung biopsy—a sample of lung tissue is taken and tested for granulomas
Other tests may include:
The goal is to reduce inflammation and damage to the lungs. The first step is to avoid further exposure to beryllium.
Berylliosis is treated with corticosteroids. This medicine helps reduce lung inflammation.
Most recover from acute berylliosis if treated quickly. Extreme cases can be deadly if not treated right away.
In chronic berylliosis, medicine helps manage symptoms. However, it cannot reverse scarring in the lungs.
The best way to reduce the risk is to avoid beryllium. If that is not possible, exposure may be reduced by:
- Using protective clothing, respirators and good ventilation—in areas with beryllium dust or fumes
- Not eating, drinking, or smoking in areas where beryllium is used
- Showering after working with beryllium
American Lung Association
US Department of Labor—Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Beryllium. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety website. Available at: http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/diseases/beryllium.html. Accessed March 21, 2021.
Berylliosis. NORD—National Organization for Rare Disorders website. Available at: https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/berylliosis. Accessed March 26, 2021.
Beryllium. US Department of Labor—Occupational Safety and Health Administration website. Available at: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/beryllium/index.html. Accessed March 26, 2021.
Chronic beryllium disease. National Jewish Health website. Available at: https://www.nationaljewish.org/conditions/beryllium-disease. Accessed March 26, 2021.
Chronic beryllium disease. UCSF Medical Center website. Available at: https://www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/chronic_beryllium_disease/index.html. Accessed March 26, 2021.
Fontenot AP. Immunologic effects of beryllium exposure. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2018;15(Suppl 2):S81-S85.
Interstitial lung disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/interstitial-lung-disease. Accessed March 26, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP Last Updated: 3/26/2021