Asbestosis - Like mesothelioma, asbestosis has only one cause - exposure to asbestos. Those affected by the disease are typically exposed to large quantities of airborne asbestos over an extended period of time. This chronic exposure results in a build up of asbestos fibers in the alveoli (small air sacs) found within the lungs. Initially this buildup causes irritation in the tissue, which results in chronic inflammation in the lungs and eventually permanent scarring. Furthermore patients with asbestosis are more likely to develop lung cancer due to the weakened state of their lungs and immune system.
What Is Asbestosis?
Asbestosis is a lung condition in which the alveolar sacs that transfer oxygen to the blood are damaged and scarred due to asbestos inhalation.
How Does Asbestosis Develop?
Asbestosis develops only in individuals who have sustained years of exposure to airborne asbestos fibers. As the asbestos fibers are inhaled into the lungs they become trapped throughout the lung tissue and alveolar sacs. In an effort to remove the dangerous material, the immune system attacks the lodged asbestos fibers, causing chronic tissue inflammation and permanent cell damage. Finally, the body forms scar tissue within the damaged alveoli, preventing the proper absorption of oxygen. As more scar tissue forms, breathing becomes increasingly difficult and may eventually result in respiratory failure.
What Are The Symptoms Associated With Asbestosis?
The scarring associated with asbestosis thickens and hardens the alveolar sacs causing sufferers to feel short of breath – as they are unable to effectively inhale and exhale air from the lungs. Fluid in the lungs can also develop, further hindering breathing. Despite the damage asbestosis does to the lungs, coughing is a rare symptom and is usually only present in patients with other lung conditions or diseases as well.
Over time, total lung capacity becomes further reduced, and approximately half of the patients diagnosed with asbestosis form plaques between the wall of the chest cavity and the lungs.
How Long After Asbestos Exposure Do Symptoms Of Asbestosis Become Noticeable?
Symptoms of asbestosis typically appear within five to ten years after prolonged exposure to asbestos.
How Is Asbestosis Diagnosed?
Diagnostic imaging techniques including chest x-rays and CT scans can detect abnormalities in patients’ lung that indicate asbestosis, such as calcifications, thickening, and loss of lung volume. Pulmonary functioning testing (PFT) which measures total lung capacity can indicate an asbestosis related decline in lung capacity. A combination of CT scan and PFT tends to be the most accurate method for diagnosing asbestosis.
What Treatment Options Are Available For Individuals Diagnosed With Asbestosis?
Although there is no cure for asbestosis, oxygen therapy, pharmaceuticals, and treatments to remove fluid and other obstructive secretions from the lungs can help ease breathing difficulty and make the patient more comfortable.