Our study aimed at evaluating ocular findings and structural changes in coal mine workers who were chronically exposed to coal mine dust and diagnosed with pneumoconiosis.
Ocular findings of 161 eyes of 81 patients diagnosed with pneumoconiosis who had previously worked or are currently working in coal mines were analyzed. Forty-six coal mine workers and sex matched healthy people (n = 20) participated in the study. Workers who had early changes of pneumoconiosis were included in Group 1 (n = 17), workers diagnosed with pneumoconiosis were included in Group 2 (n = 29), and healthy subjects were included in Group 3 (n = 20). Outcome measures were the difference in peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thickness, choroidal thickness (CT), central macular thickness (CMT) and tear function tests between the groups.
RNFL thickness values in Group 1 and 2 were lower than in Group 3, the control group, in all quadrants except the temporal quadrant. However, there was no statistically significant difference in peripapillary RNFL thickness values in any quadrants among the three groups (p > 0.05). Central subfoveal choroidal thickness and CMT measurements were thinner in Group 1 and 2 than in the control group. However, this difference among groups was not statistically significant (p > 0.05). Mean schirmer's test result was 8.8 ± 1.6 mm in group 1, 7.1 ± 1.8 mm in Group 2 and 11.5 ± 3.6 mm in the control group. Mean tear break up time (BUT) test result was 7.1 ± 1.3 seconds (sec) in Group 1, 6.5 ± 1.8 sec in Group 2 and 10.4 ± 2.9 s in the control group. The Schirmer's test and BUT test results were both statistically significantly lower in coal mine workers (Group 1 and 2) compared to the control group. Group 1 and Group 2 did not show statistically significant difference in terms of Schirmer's test and BUT test results.
The association between pneumoconiosis and coal mine dust contiguity is thought to be due to the effect of coal dust by producing chronic inflammation. In addition, there are several trace elements in coal dust which are toxic to vital tissues. In this study, ocular findings suggest that systemic levels of trace elements and chronic inflammation may not reach to a level that influences ocular structures. Nonetheless, tear functions seem to be affected in coal mine workers.
This study suggests that the systemic effect of coal mine dust in ocular structures is not evident. However, direct contact with coal mine and fume leads to a decrease in tear function tests.
Coal mine; ocular; pneumoconiosis