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What is Asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a breathing disorder caused by inhalation of asbestos fibers. Accumulation of these fibers in the lungs can lead to scarring of lung tissue and diminished breathing capacity. Signs and symptoms of asbestosis usually don't appear until years after exposure. The condition often worsens and can lead to disability and even death.

How does asbestosis develop?

People most likely to develop asbestosis are those who have been exposed to asbestos fibers for a prolonged period of time. Most people suffering from asbestosis acquired it on the job before the federal government began regulating the use of asbestos and asbestos products in the mid-1970s. Today, the handling of such hazardous materials is strictly regulated. Still, experts estimate that since the 1940s, more than 10 million people may have been exposed to asbestos.

Asbestosis Symptoms

The effects of long-term exposure to asbestos normally do not show up for 20 to 30 years after the initial exposure. Signs and symptoms develop when damage and scarring caused by the asbestos fibers lead to fibrosis of the parenchymal lung tissue, preventing the lungs from contracting and expanding normally (a form of pulmonary fibrosis). The first signs of the disease include disorders, such as pleural effusion. The long-term asbestosis prognosis is determined by the severity of the lung symptoms at the point of initial diagnosis.

Some of the signs and symptoms of asbestosis include:

  • Shortness of breath; initially only with exertion, but eventually even while resting
  • Decreased tolerance for physical activity
  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Finger clubbing in some cases


When to seek medical advice about asbestosis

If you have a history of exposure to asbestos and you're experiencing increased shortness of breath, talk to your doctor about the possibility of asbestosis. If it is asbestosis, your doctor may be able to suggest palliative treatments designed to relieve symptoms.

Diagnosing Asbestosis

A doctor may detect a dry, crackling sound when listening to the lungs with a stethoscope. A patient may also undergo pulmonary function tests, a chest X-ray, or a computerized tomography (CT) scan. In some cases, a doctor may request a CT scan of the lungs. These scans generally provide greater detail than a typical chest X-ray. This may help detect asbestosis in its early stages, even before it shows up on the chest X-ray.

Asbestosis Treatment

There is no treatment to reverse the effects of asbestos on the alveoli. Asbestosis treatment is aimed at preventing progression of the disease and relieving its symptoms. The most important factor in keeping the condition from worsening is to eliminate exposure to asbestos.

Smoking cessation, vaccinations and medications can help treat asbestosis. To ease difficulty breathing, a doctor may prescribe supplemental oxygen or drain fluid from around the lungs. Severe cases of asbestosis may be treated with lung transplantation.

Asbestos also causes mesothelioma cancer

Besides asbestosis, asbestos exposure has been linked with a number of other diseases, the most serious of which is malignant mesothelioma cancer. There are three distinct types of malignant mesothelioma, each of which affects a different section of mesothelial tissue.

Pleural mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelial lining of the lung (pleura), peritoneal mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelial lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum), and pericardial mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelial lining surrounding the heart (pericardium). A given case of malignant mesothelioma can also be typed by its histological category: epithelioid mesothelioma (the most common, and considered the most amenable to treatment), sarcomatoid mesothelioma or sarcomatous (a much more aggressive form), and biphasic or mixed mesothelioma (a combination of both of the other cell types).

Asbestosis: Legal Help

If you or your loved one has developed symptoms of asbestosis, you might be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, emotional suffering, lost wages and diminution in lifestyle. Please contact experienced personal injury lawyers to discuss your situation and determine the best course of action. These legal professionals will investigate your case to determine if asbestos exposure led to the onset of asbestosis symptoms and if an employer, government or some other entity might be held financially liable. If appropriate, personal injury attorneys will file an asbestosis lawsuit on your behalf to seek and obtain rightful remuneration.