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What are the most common occupational illnesses?

You most often hear about occupational injuries, but some illnesses also result from workplace conditions. Many of these illnesses have lasting effects, including preventing you from holding gainful employment in the future.

The American Academy of Family Physicians explains some of the more common occupational illnesses and the effects they cause. No matter the cause, limiting ill-effects requires timely medical care.

Carpal tunnel syndrome and overuse disorders

The carpal tunnel is a pathway around the median nerve that can swell due to repetitive movements. When the median nerve becomes compressed, pain and numbness typically occur. The ability to grip and hold items is also affected in more serious cases.

Muscle weakness also occurs with lateral epicondylitis, which affects a tendon in the forearm. With medial epicondylitis, a break-down of collagen in the flexor tendon in the arm causes pain. However, grip is not usually affected.

Allergic/irritant contact dermatitis

Repeated exposure to an allergen may cause sensitivity in some, which leads to blistering and red skin. Continued exposure to an irritating substance causes excessive dryness to the areas of contact.

Asthma

Certain fumes and gases can either cause new asthma symptoms or lead to a reoccurrence of existing ones. Asthma causes breathing issues, including coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

COPD is another breathing condition where the airways become blocked due to environmental exposure. It causes symptoms similar to asthma, but the condition also worsens over time.

In addition to timely treatment, doctors also recommend limiting the exposure to the substance that caused symptoms. In many cases, this means changing professions to reduce exposure. If effects are severe, it may not be possible to work again.

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