Asbestosis is a noncancerous illness caused by asbestos exposure. The disease occurs when the fibers get lodged in the victim’s lungs, the body tries to protect itself against the fibers which results in the development of scar tissue. In turn, the scar tissue diminishes the lung’s capacity for oxygen. Asbestosis is a progressive disease, and as the lungs’ capacity decreases, victims suffer shortness of breath, coughing, fatigue, chest pain, weight-loss and heart problems. Asbestosis victims may be symptom free and the disease is detected by x-rays.
Asbestosis is a chronic inflammation of the parenchymal tissues of the lungs. The condition occurs after long term exposure to asbestos, usually from working in a mine or other workplaces where asbestos is found. Those who suffer from this condition often have severe shortness of breath, and have a higher risk of developing lung cancer.
The inflammation is due to an immune response in the body, which becomes chronic, and leads to the deposit of fibrous tissues around the asbestos fibers. These fibrous masses eventually start to show symptoms, resulting in shortness of breath and, in rare cases, respiratory failure.
There is currently is no cure for asbestosis, however, the symptoms of the disease can be managed. Treatments for the disease involve preventing further complications of the disease and treating its symptoms. Bronchodilators that open up the bronchial tubes and allow passage of air are used to ease shortness of breath. The patient may also receive supplemental oxygen. Respiratory treatments that remove secretions from the lungs may also be used. Coughing is treated with humidifiers, breathing therapies and chest percussion to loosen and thin bronchial.
Asbestos exposure is also known to cause malignant mesothelioma, a rare, aggressive form of cancer affecting the lining of the lungs that can take up to five decades to be properly diagnosed, and is resistant to many standard cancer treatments.
For more information, please see the following list of Asbestosis information resources: