Most Common Occupational Diseases and Their Causes 2023

Most Common Occupational Diseases and Their Causes 2023

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an occupational disease is a cumulative manifestation of continual and repetitive exposure to certain substances at the workplace that either exacerbates or contribute to illness. Occupational diseases affect thousands of people every year, and many have debilitating set of symptoms. 

Many factors and elements are contributing to health hazards and occupational diseases, including, but not limited to, chemical agents (Asbestos, Silicon, Lead), infectious agents (Viruses, bacteria, parasites, birds, and insects), physical factors (noise, vibratory motions, repetitive joint movements), and psychological factors (stress, bullying, and exhaustion).

Most occupational diseases have avoidable causes and with targeted efforts at prevention, many of these can be nipped in the bud. Here, we list out a few of the most common occupational diseases, with brief descriptions, along with their causes.


Mesothelioma is a rare and a lethal cancer involving the cancer cells lining the insides of the body cavity, particularly the lungs, heart, abdominal cavity and organs, and testes. The cancer is caused by a chronic exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a heat-resistant, organic mineral. Continuous exposure to asbestos causes its fibers to lodge in mesothelial tissues, where it destroys host tissues and cells, and, in advanced cases, leads to cancer.

Veteran soldiers, industrial workers in shipyards and automobile industries, and construction workers are at a high-risk for asbestos exposure. Interestingly, asbestos exposure is the only known cause for mesothelioma, and it starts showing symptoms after a decade or more of exposure. By then, it’s considered too late for the patient to survive the cancer for more than a year. 

For those suffering from this debilitating illness, a support organization namely has taken the initiative to facilitate the patients and their families by providing awareness and information on how the cancer works.


Asthma is a reversible condition of the airways where they become hyperactive and cause shortness of breath and wheezing. There is a multitude of risk factors leading to occupational asthma, including chlorine and nitrite inhalation and exposure to birds’ feathers or animal dander.

The affected individual when exposed to an allergen suffers an acute attack of symptoms, including shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and cough bouts, requiring immediate medical intervention.

Most Common Occupational Diseases and Their Causes 2022

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis, also known as Eczema is the most common dermatological occupational allergy. It may be due to repeated exposure to certain allergens or irritants. Eczema accounts for a vast majority of occupational diseases, affecting around 20% of the U.S. population.

Professionals at risk include: healthcare workers for frequent handwashing, chefs and cooks for exposure to pesticides on the surfaces of vegetables, beauticians exposed to chemicals and creams, and farmers exposed to pesticides.

The attack occurs 24-48 hours after exposure and can cause severe burning and itching at the affected body part. Avoiding the triggers can help prevent further episodes, however, frequent exposure can lead to the development of chronic skin disorders.

Hearing Loss

Noise pollution is one of the leading global concerns nowadays due to the advent of heavy machinery and automobiles. Hearing disability refers to mild hearing difficulty or even permanent hearing loss. Loud noises and certain ototoxic chemicals or drugs irritating the conduction pathway are responsible for hearing ailments.

The most affected are: miners, construction workers, and road traffic officers. Strategies should be made to assist the workers in minimizing their exposure to loud noises by employing modern innovation in machines and cars.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Friends, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is another occupational disorder affecting those who repeatedly use their hands or wrist joint. Carpal tunnel is a pathway through which the nerves and arteries traverse from the forearm to the hand. It is covered by a band of ligaments that thickens due to inflammation caused by repetitive joint motion and impinges the structures passing through the tunnel.

The median nerve compressed in this way results in excruciating pain, weakness, and tingling sensation in the fingers affected. The pain is at its worst during the night. 

Office workers or those with typing jobs are the typical patients. Frequent breaks and relaxation of joints can prevent strain.

PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, according to the DSM-V, is a set of symptoms that includes repeated flashbacks of a traumatic event, focusing on negative thoughts, avoidance of triggering situations, acute stress response to similar triggers and unresolved trauma and baggage from the traumatic event.

Affected professionals belong to military forces, healthcare workers, and anyone working in stressful conditions witnessing death and suffering every other day. Psychiatric evaluation of high-risk professionals should be implemented to help resolve any residual trauma.


Occupational diseases can be easily avoided just by limiting exposure, adopting safer alternatives, and by banning the use of certain toxic chemicals in industries. Workers’ safety should be ensured by both the government and corporations.

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Most Common Occupational Diseases and Their Causes

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