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Chronic Beryllium Disease: Diagnosis

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This information was reviewed and approved by Lisa A. Maier, MD, MSPH, FCCP (7/22/2021).

How do I know if I have CBD?

Diagnosis of CBD begins with a blood test called a beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test (BeLPT). The BeLPT is a test that helps determine if your immune system reacts to beryllium as a foreign substance — this reaction results in an abnormal BeLPT. In individuals who do not have beryllium sensitization or CBD, the immune system does not respond to beryllium in any manner, and they have normal BeLPT results.

Individuals with two or more abnormal BeLPT results are considered to have “confirmed beryllium sensitization” and are encouraged to undergo further evaluation to determine if they have CBD. Individuals with other combinations of non-normal test results, such as an abnormal and a borderline BeLPT or three borderline test results, should also be referred for medical testing. This medical evaluation typically includes an appointment with a physician familiar with the health effects of beryllium, exercise tolerance testingpulmonary function testing, a chest X-ray or CT scan, blood work and diagnostic bronchoscopy with biopsy and lavage (lung washing). The types of testing your physician performs may differ based on your overall health. Based on the results of the tests, your physician will likely be able to determine if you have CBD.

The diagnosis is typically made on the basis of confirmed beryllium sensitization and the finding of abnormal collections of cells called granulomas, or by an abnormal beryllium test in the immune cells from the lungs and significantly elevated number of a particular type of an immune cell called a lymphocyte.


What is a beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test (BeLPT)?

The beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test (BeLPT) is a test that measures beryllium sensitization, which is the immune system’s reaction to beryllium.

More information on the BeLPT.

For more information on beryllium, please contact National Jewish Health® at 1.800.222.5864, extension 1722.

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