Signs of Asbestosis
Many people have heard of the dangers of asbestos exposure, but few may know about asbestosis. Asbestosis is a typically fatal lung disease that makes breathing progressively more difficult. Asbestosis symptoms may not be noticeable at the time of exposure. Signs of asbestosis may not be noticeable to the person exposed to asbestos for as long as 20 to 30 years.
Asbestosis is a lung disease. The disease develops when microscopic fibers from asbestos cause inflammation and scarring deep in the lungs of a person exposed to asbestos. The scarring restricts your breathing and interferes with the ability of oxygen to enter your bloodstream. The lung tissue thickens and becomes stiff over time due to the scarring. Other names for this disease are pulmonary fibrosis and interstitial pneumonitis.
Someone can contract asbestosis by exposure to asbestos fibers over a long time, such as in occupational exposure. The annual death rate is around 1,300, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Who is at Risk for Asbestosis?
Those who are most at risk for asbestosis are miners, electricians, construction workers, insulation workers, military veterans, etc. People were employed in mining, milling, manufacturing, installation, or removal of asbestos products before the late 1970s are at risk of asbestosis. Examples include:
- Asbestos miners
- Aircraft and auto mechanics
- Boiler operators
- Building construction workers
- Railroad workers
- Refinery and mill workers
- Shipyard workers
- Workers removing asbestos insulation around steam pipes in older buildings
The risk of asbestosis is generally related to the amount and the duration of exposure to asbestos. The greater the asbestos exposure is, the greater the risk is of lung damage. However, it’s important to note that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.
Symptoms of Asbestosis
The primary symptom of asbestosis is shortness of breath. Other symptoms are
persistent cough, chest pain, and loss of appetite. Nails might become wider, rounder and softer due to the lack of oxygen in the bloodstream.
The scarring of lung tissue makes it difficult to breathe, translating into less oxygen in the blood. Asbestosis can contribute to cardiac issues as well since the lungs and heart work to keep the body functioning . High blood pressure is not uncommon in patients with asbestosis. Heart problems, therefore, can be an indicator of asbestosis.
Your doctor can diagnose asbestosis based on your past history of exposure to asbestos, your symptoms, a physical exam, and results of tests such as a chest X-ray or chest CT scan. You should tell your doctor if you believe you’ve been exposed to asbestos.
There is no cure for asbestosis. Treatments cannot reverse the effects of asbestos on your lungs. Most treatments for asbestosis focus on relieving asbestosis symptoms and slowing down the progression of the disease, such as: draining fluid from the chest, bronchodilator inhalers, pulmonary medications, rehabilitation exercises, antibiotics, supplemental oxygen, pain medication, surgery, and occasionally a lung transplant.
If you or someone you love has been exposed to asbestos and have the signs of asbestosis, get a confirmed diagnosis from a lung doctor. Once you have been diagnosed, you should contact Goldberg Persky and White P.C.. Don’t let time limit your rights.
Asbestosis, The Mayo Clinic Staff, [link]
Sporn, Thomas A; Roggli, Victor L; Oury, Tim D, Pathology of asbestos-associated diseases. (2004) [link]
Asbestos-Related Lung Diseases [link]