Asbestosis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, & More

In this document, we are going to uncover a number of aspects related to asbestosis. It's a serious complication caused due to asbestos exposure. There are some other complications related to the exposure of asbestos including mesothelioma.


But first we would like to discuss one of the chronic conditions caused due to asbestos exposure called asbestosis.

Asbestosis is basically a chronic lung disease caused by exposure to asbestos and cannot be cured. Symptoms typically include shortness of breath, coughing, and chest pain and tightness. The life expectancy of patients diagnosed with asbestosis varies, and it also increases the risk of developing cancer.



What Is Asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a chronic lung ailment brought about by exposure to asbestos. It entails a gradual scarring of the lungs and falls under the category of interstitial lung diseases. When the body attempts to get rid the lungs of asbestos particles, scar tissue forms, resulting in painful or challenging breathing.

As time progresses, symptoms may worsen due to further tissue damage. These symptoms can vary from mild to severe, but, similar to other asbestos-related illnesses, they may not become evident until several decades after the exposure.

Please note that prevention is the ultimate thing that you can expect from anyone. The core reason is that there is no treatment available for asbestosis. Understanding how to safely handle asbestos can help prevent this illness.

The severity of the condition is influenced by the extent and duration of asbestos exposure. Those who are exposed to asbestos over long periods are more likely to experience severe symptoms.


Asbestosis & Asbestos Exposure

The basic thing that you should know before understanding asbestosis is asbestos. It's a naturally occurring mineral used for insulation, fireproofing, and enhancing the strength of building materials for long.

The use of asbestos happens in shipping and construction industry that actually expand during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Asbestos, known for its effectiveness and affordability, found applications in various industries.

The asbestos fibers have the potential to become airborne, and individuals can inhale them. Once inhaled, these fibers can lodge in the body's tissues, causing irritation and damage to cells.

Those most at risk of exposure worked in occupations involving asbestos materials, like construction, mining, shipbuilding, and roles within the U.S. Navy.


Who Is at Risk for Asbestosis?

People who have contacted asbestos for long will be at the higher risk of developing asbestosis later in life.

Not everyone may be aware of their exposure to asbestos. If you worked in one of these high-risk industries before 1980, there's a high possibility that you came into contact with asbestos: 

  • U.S. Navy
  • Power generation
  • Textile milling
  • Industrial manufacturing
  • Shipbuilding or repair
  • Railway
  • Auto or aircraft repair
  • Boiler making
  • Firefighting
  • Insulation
  • Demolition
  • Construction
  • Asbestos mining


One of the major causes of asbestos exposure resulted from occupational exposure. Other than the above, there are many people who encountered indirect exposure through family members who inadvertently brought asbestos fibers home on their clothing.

Others faced exposure due to the proximity of a factory or mine, as evidenced by the case of the W.R. Grace mine in Libby, Montana.

There are some other risk factors as well that has been shown to cause asbestosis:

  • Smoking
  • Family history
  • Asbestos exposure in industries
  • Frequency of asbestos exposure
  • Asbestos types causing exposure


Symptoms of Asbestosis

Asbestosis occurs slowly and steadily and doesn't happen overnight. But the symptoms take years to appear.

There are people who don't detect symptoms until many years after being exposed to asbestos dust. Please note that shortness of breath happens to be the initial indicator of asbestosis when symptoms eventually manifest. Please note that asbestosis symptoms include the following:

Clubbing of the fingers or toes

Loss of appetite

Chest tightness

Dry and persistent cough

Breathe Shortness



How Long Does it Take for Asbestosis to Show?

Asbestos exposure results in disorders that are characterized by long latency periods. Latency period means the life span from asbestos exposure to the emergence of disease symptoms.

While the latency period for asbestosis is shorter than that of mesothelioma that can extend up to 50 years or more signs or symptoms of asbestosis generally take up to 20 to 30 years to manifest.



How Is Asbestosis Diagnosed?

If you find any of the symptoms as above or if you have been exposed to asbestos long ago, you need to see a doctor for thorough check up and diagnosis.


How Is Asbestosis Treated?

There is one thing which is quite unfortunate regarding asbestosis. It's because there is no treatment available for asbestosis. The disorder is known to cause lung damage.

It's known that lifestyle modification along with some treatments can help provide relief from the symptoms of asbestosis.



Medical Treatments for Asbestosis

To treat asbestosis, there are various treatments recommended that are known to subside symptoms:

Supplemental Oxygen: The presence of scar tissue due to asbestosis includes deep breathing, frequently reducing the oxygen intake your body receives. To sort this out, supplemental oxygen can provide an additional supply of oxygen with each breath.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation: In order to provide a relief, a rehabilitation program is advised to asbestosis patients. It’s a kind of therapy that is enriched with loads of strategies including relaxation and breathing. There are other exercises that help to strengthening the lungs.

Medications: Once you see a doctor, a diagnosis is made. Once it is done, he may prescribe aerosol medications 

Surgery: There are some who require lung transplant surgery. It's basically a serious procedure with complications



Lifestyle Changes for Asbestosis

It has been seen that lifestyle changes can play a great role towards minimizing the symptoms or side effects when taken along with the treatment of asbestosis:

Smoking: If a patient who has been diagnosed with asbestosis quits smoking, it can help manage the condition. You can have a word with your doctor in this regard

Vaccinations: People who are suffering from asbestosis are often vaccinated for the flu along with other respiratory ailments

Asbestos Exposure: If there is any chance to check the asbestos exposure, concrete steps need to be taken

Lifestyle Changes: A patient is expected to adopt healthy lifestyle changes which include regular exercise, enough sleep, and healthy eating.

Although, there is no treatment available for asbestosis, changing or adopting healthy lifestyle can certainly be helpful to manage asbestosis in a better way.


What Is the Prognosis for Asbestosis?

The outlook for asbestosis varies significantly from person to person. Even after exposure to asbestos, breathing difficulties frequently worsen over time. Factors influencing the prognosis and life expectancy for individuals with asbestosis include:

  • Pulmonary function
  • Lung damage
  • Overall health
  • Age
  • Smoking
  • Asbestos exposure frequency


A number of factors have already been studied in some asbestosis patients. It was done primarily to understand their life expectancy. They found that people with early damage could expect to live approximately 14 years, while those with the most severe damage might have a life expectancy of just less than 2 years.


Tips for Preventing Asbestosis

The best reason to prevent asbestosis is to avoid any kind of its exposure. The problem arises when a person works in the presence of asbestos. And so, he must go ahead with good safety measures.

In any case, if there comes any such incident, you have to talk with your employer for the best healthy practices. This way, you can avoid asbestos from your surroundings.

For example, if you live in an old home,  you can call asbestos professional who has all the techniques to avoid any sort of issues.



How to Seek Compensation for Asbestosis

If you are actually diagnosed with asbestosis, and truly suspect that you have long been exposed to asbestos fibers, you may go ahead to seek compensation.

This is the reason why Asbestos claims and lawsuits are designed. Today, mesothelioma patients can file a claim for compensation. In the same way, Asbestosis patients are also eligible to recover damages.

To sort out any such issues, asbestos lawyers are hired. In order to sort out such issues, you need to hire an experienced attorney. He can help determine companies responsible.

If you are a veteran, you may be eligible for benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Seeking legal assistance can also be helpful in this regard. If your exposure to asbestos occurred during your military service, a lawyer can assist you in filing a successful claim for disability benefits.

Also Read: Top 2 Reasons of Development of Asbestos Cancer


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