Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of asbestosis, and it needs 10-30 years for asbestosis disease to develop. That means when the disease is diagnosed, the patients may have been exposed to asbestos in the past -- as far as 30 years ago.
Exposure happens when someone inhales the asbestos fibers. The continued exposure may lead to the accumulation of the fibers in lung tissues, causing a long-term fibrosis or scarring. From time to time, lung tissues will thicken, causing unbearable pain, and shortness of breath.
Because asbestosis is not a form of mesothelioma or lung cancer, the prognosis is positive. People can live for many years with this disease. However, the patients will need increased treatments as the condition may get worse as they age.
SymptomsWhen a person is exposed to high levels of asbestos fibers for a long period of time, some of the fibers will be lodged in the alveoli – tiny sacs within your lungs where oxygen and carbon dioxide move between the bloodstream and lungs. The asbestos fibers will irritate the lungs tissue and scar them where the lungs become stiff. That’s when the patients start to get shortness of breath.
As asbestosis continues, the scars in lung tissues are getting worse.Over time, the lung tissue becomes too stiff that it can’t work properly (contract and expand abnormally).
If you are smoking cigarettes, the retention of asbestos fibers will increase in your lungs and induce a faster progression of the disease.
The primary symptoms are shortness of breath and generalized weaknesses where you get tired easily and unexplained fatigue. The amount and length of asbestos exposure will decide the severity of the symptoms.
Patients may suffer from dry inspiratory crackles (a rattling and clicking noises made by the lungs during inhalation), clubbing of the fingers (a condition where there is a bulging at the end of the fingers, softening of the fingernail beds, and misshapen nails that caused by an extreme decreased of oxygenated blood flow) just like lung cancer.
More than 50% of people develop plaques in the parietal pleura ( space between the chest wall and the lungs), andthere is always an indication of fibrosis in the lower lung lobes where asbestosis is most common.
Another signs and symptoms of asbestosis are:
- Chest pain
- Swelling in the face and neck
- Coughing up blood or hemoptysis
- Having difficulty to swallow
- Lose of appetite
- Weight loss
Other complications may arise in the later stages of the disease development, including
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart Disease
- Other Lung Complications
Asbestosis disease can be diagnosed using these recommended diagnostic tools, such as:
- A through physical examination
- Lung function tests
- Chest X-ray
Apparently, there is no cure for asbestosis disease, thus the only treatment options is to reduce the pain that include:
- Respiratory physiotherapy that uses to remove secretions from the lungs
- Oxygen therapy that helps to relieve shortness of breath
- Medications to relieve pain and thin secretions
Risk FactorsPeople who worked in milling, manufacturing, mining, and removal or installation of asbestos products before the late 1970s, have a higher chance of contracting asbestosis disease. There include:
- Building construction workers
- Aircraft and auto mechanics
- Asbestos miners
- Workers removing asbestos insulation around steam pipes in older buildings
- Shipyard workers
- Boiler operators
- Railroad workers