Asbestosis is a disease caused exclusively by asbestos exposure. On an average, 10,000 people die in the United States due to asbestos diseases. People who worked in risk conditions during the mid twentieth century are diagnosed with several asbestos related problems. Constant and continuous exposure to asbestos results in inhalation of asbestos dust, particles and fibers which cause asbestosis. People in the household who inhale asbestos fibers that clung to shoes and clothes are also at risk.
What Is Asbestosis?
When people working in at-risk occupations inhale asbestos, the fibers enter the lungs and cause asbestosis. It is a severe and progressive pulmonary disease. The disease is dangerous because asbestosis symptoms show up only after asbestos fibers cause damage to the lungs. Moreover, this damage is irreversible and damage can’t be undone.
Treatments for asbestosis prevent further damage and people will remain affected for the entire life span. Once asbestosis symptoms are experienced, there is no going back and treatments help in making breathing comparatively easier. Patients are kept at close watch to find out whether asbestosis grows to mesothelioma.
Asbestosis has a longer latency period which means that the disease develops after several years of exposure. When asbestosis symptoms show up, it is an indication that damage has already been caused. Typically, the symptoms are noticeable at least 20 to 30 years after exposure. It is for this reason that patients with asbestosis belong to the elderly category. Early diagnosis of asbestosis symptoms can prevent damage to some extent. It is better to consult a physician after you suspect that you may be exposed to asbestos.
The most evident of the asbestosis symptoms is difficulty in breathing during physical exertion. Generalized illness and sick feeling is noticed in most of the patients. Persistent dry cough is also one of the most common asbestosis symptoms. Fluid accumulation in the lungs is the reason for dry cough. Asbestos fibers cause scarring of lung tissues and this may lead to cancerous growth. However, asbestosis is not exactly a type of cancer. Stiffness of chest wall is also experienced by asbestosis patients and mild breathing difficulty should not be ignored. Coughing and wheezing will be experienced by asbestosis patients who smoke.
Asbestosis symptoms intensify every year and breathing may become increasingly difficult. About 15% of asbestosis patients suffer from shortness of breath and respiratory failure. Recurrent respiratory infections can’t be avoided with scarred lungs. Coughing up blood indicates that the disease has increased in severity. Hoarseness and restless sleep due to difficult breathing is experienced by asbestosis patients. Some patients have thickened and widened fingers. Pleural layer of the lungs will be inflamed due to the scars caused by asbestos fibers.