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Diagnosis of Occupational Diseases

Occupational diseases are under-diagnosed. Appropriate diagnosis of an occupational etiology can assist with the treatment of the patientís condition. Providers should routinely ask their patients a few simple questions to determine if a condition may be work-related:

  • What kind of work do you do?
  • Are you now or have you previously been exposed to dust, fumes, chemicals, radiation, or loud noise?
  • Are your symptoms better or worse when you are at work?
  • Do you think your health problems are related to your work?

If one or more answers arouse suspicion, a full occupational health history should be taken. Self-administered occupational history forms can be an efficient way to obtain this information and are available online at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/exphistory/docs/CSEMExposHist-26-29.pdf.

Occupational lung diseases, pesticide and heavy metal poisonings are required to be reported to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH). To report one of these conditions, medical personnel should contact the NYSDOH Bureau of Occupational Health and Injury Prevention at 518-402-7900. NYSDOHís authority enables it to obtain this information in accordance with the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Staff are available to assist with appropriate diagnosis and treatment tools.

The NYSDOH provides information to health care providers and their patients and, with a patientís permission, will work with employers to identify and correct hazardous workplace conditions. Patientsí interests are always put first, and their confidentiality is maintained. Providers in New York State can also utilize a statewide network of occupational health clinics for consultation and referral: www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/environ/occupate.htm.

Posted 01-11-2013 at 11:30AM

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