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What is Asbestosis?

When disturbed, asbestos is a very dangerous material. Asbestos contains fibers that, if inhaled, can cause serious damage to the lungs and lung tissue. If these fibers are inhaled and become dormant in a person’s lung cavity, breathing disorders such as asbestosis can occur. Unfortunately, symptoms of this disease are not visible until later stages in life. Once a patient discovers these types of symptoms (which usually include chest pain, persistent cough, and shortness of breath) it is important for them to see a doctor to determine the stage of cancer. Usually, the symptoms increase and the condition worsens, especially if not treated in a timely fashion.

Those Most Likely to Develop Asbestosis

Asbestos is a material that is resistant to heat and decomposition. It was extensively used in industries such as shipyards, building, manufacturing and home insulation. Workers exposed to asbestos inhaled these fibers for many years. Most did not know the effects that asbestos would have on people’s health until the early 1970s, when lung-related diseases of those who worked with asbestos were prevalent. Over thirty years of exposure allows an individual to develop a life threatening illness that could have been prevented if proper measures were taken to ensure the safety of worker’s health.

Today, there are numerous accounts of asbestos removal around the country. Workers are properly trained in how to remove the asbestos safely without contaminating themselves, their workspace, or the people around them. The chances of those who work in sites that focus on asbestos removal are less likely to be completely exposed, but proper precautions and safety measures must be taken to ensure their safety. Before a person begins work in an asbestos related setting, they should find out what precautions are being taken to make sure asbestos fibers are not contaminating their work environment.

Symptoms of Asbestosis

Most lung-related diseases share the same type of symptoms. The most common symptom noted is shortness of breath. This does not usually appear until a decade or more has passed since the asbestos exposure. Other symptoms that are more severe with patients are dry cough which can lead to severe chest pain, and the risk of developing heart related problems. One of the most advanced symptoms of this disease that has been noted by doctors it clubbing of the fingers. Here, there is an increased thickness of the fingers and the curvature of the nails becomes more apparent.

These symptoms are indications that there is damage and scaring to the lung tissue. As symptoms develop and the disease increases to different stages, the stiffness in the tissue makes the lungs unable to expand and contract properly. This is usually referred to as pulmonary fibrosis. It is evident that these symptoms may be indications of other lung-related issues. It is important to discuss these symptoms with a physician so that proper testing is done to determine whether or not the patient has asbestosis.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Asbestosis

As with any other condition, a complete checkup and evaluation of past health history is necessary to begin diagnosis. The doctor will ask questions such as, how much asbestos have you been exposed to, what were the precautions (if any) that were taken to protect you from the dust, and how many more individuals in your workforce have been diagnosed, or suffer from symptoms of asbestos related diseases.

There are different forms of testing for asbestosis, and some mirror the types of testing done for other types of lung-related diseases. Such testing includes: pulmonary function tests that determine how well the lungs are functioning, chest x-rays that determine any abnormalities in the lungs, and CT scans that provide greater detail for the doctor to determine better detail than the chest x-ray.

Complications Associated with Asbestosis:

The duration of exposure to asbestos determines the severity of the cancer that results. The severe forms of asbestosis can cause complications in other parts and functions of the body. Symptoms and effects can be non-existent to life threatening. The complications from asbestosis that can arise include: high blood pressure in the lungs that can cause a reduced flow of oxygen, heart problems that can lead to failure of the right ventricle, and other lung damage that eventually lead to overall health issues. Exposure to asbestos for over twenty years can eventually lead to a rare and severe form of lung cancer such as mesothelioma.