Asbestosis is an inflammatory lung disease caused by asbestos fibers. People usually get this condition after long-term or high-intensity exposure to asbestos, a type of material that was widely used for various construction projects.
People with the highest risk of developing asbestosis are those who work in industries that involve the manufacture, handling and removal of asbestos. Such industries include mining, fireproofing, manufacturing and construction. Families of people exposed to asbestos may also inhale asbestos fibers, since workers can come home with particles clinging to their clothing. Breathing in these particles causes scarring of the lungs, a condition known as fibrosis. Because of this, asbestosis is often classified as an occupational lung disease.
Asbestosis particularly affects the parenchymal tissue, which is the functional part of the lungs. It includes the alveoli, the air sacs that carry out the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide with the blood. The asbestos fibers are hard to digest or get rid of, so they stay in the lungs. As a result, they cause an inflammatory reaction as well as thickening of the alveolar walls due to deposits of connective tissue. Eventually, there is a reduction of the transfer of oxygen to the blood as well as decreased removal of carbon dioxide.
Since scarred lung tissue cannot expand or contract in a normal manner, the affected person experiences shortness of breath, especially with exertion. This condition, which is called dyspnea, is the primary symptom of asbestosis. Other signs of the disease include chest pain, coughing, fatigue, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Some patients may develop clubbing of the fingers or some nail abnormalities. However, symptoms usually do not show up until decades after initial exposure to asbestos. Severity of the disease is based on the length of the exposure period or the amount of asbestos inhaled, and the symptoms only get worse as time passes.
Asbestosis increases the probability of malignancies like lung cancer occurring. Malignant mesothelioma, a rare type of lung cancer, is directly and almost always caused by asbestos. Other complications or asbestos-related conditions affect the pleurae, which is the membrane that surrounds the lungs. They include pleural plaques, or calcification of the pleural cavity, and pleural effusion, which is abnormal fluid accumulation. In more advanced cases, asbestosis can cause respiratory failure.
A chest x-ray is the most commonly used diagnostic tool for determining the presence of asbestosis. It appears as an excessive amount of whiteness signifying scar tissue in the lungs. Doctors can also use pulmonary lung tests which consist of a series of breathing exercises. This allows doctors to measure the amount of air the lungs are able to handle. CT scans provide high-resolution images of the lungs, particularly the pleura for any calcification or excess fluid. Doctors combine the aforementioned procedures and others, like bronchoscopy and Gallium scans, with the study of patients’ environmental and workplace history.
Treatment and Prevention
Although there is no cure for asbestosis, there are treatments and prevention measures to manage it. People with asbestosis are required to avoid any contact with asbestos, and government regulations have greatly limited the exposure of asbestos in the workplace. Also, patients are discouraged from habits like cigarette smoking, which can worsen the effects of the disease. Oxygen therapy and respiratory physiotherapy are usually recommended, particularly for alleviating shortness of breath. Patients might also want to take periodic chest x-rays, body scans, or clinical evaluations to watch out for additional problems.
This article was written by Travis Guerrero, a health and nutrition expert who looks forward to helping you live a healthier life. He writes this on behalf of the Shrader Law firm, your number one choice when looking for representation regarding cases involving Asbestosis. Check out their website today and see how they can help you!