Asbestosis is a lung condition that damages the lungs over time, causing difficulty breathing and chest pain. The only known cause of asbestosis is exposure to asbestos fibers. Those who worked on asbestos job sites are at a higher risk of asbestosis. There’s no cure for asbestosis, but treatments can help manage symptoms and improve lung health.
What Is Asbestosis?
Asbestosis is a lung disease that is caused by asbestos exposure. It develops decades after asbestos fibers get stuck in the lungs.
People with asbestosis have trouble breathing because their lungs are stiff and scarred from the asbestos fibers. This leads to symptoms such as difficulty breathing and a chronic cough.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for asbestosis and it will get worse over time. There is hope for patients with asbestosis, though – treatments can help ease painful symptoms and slow the disease’s progression.
You’re at a higher risk of asbestosis and other asbestos-related diseases if you worked on an asbestos job site. Thankfully, you can get financial compensation if you were diagnosed with asbestosis. Start to pursue compensation right now with help from our team.
Asbestosis vs. Mesothelioma
Asbestosis is not the same disease as malignant mesothelioma.
- Asbestosis is a noncancerous illness that directly affects the lungs.
- Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, heart, or testicles.
That said, both asbestosis and mesothelioma share a common cause: asbestos exposure. The conditions can also share symptoms such as difficulty breathing, a chronic cough, and chest pain.
Asbestosis is caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a fiber-like material that was used on job sites for decades because it’s very durable and fireproof.
However, if asbestos-based products are disturbed or damaged, they can release asbestos dust or fibers into the air, and people nearby can breathe them in.
Some of the fibers can then make their way into the alveoli of the lungs and get trapped there. The alveoli are tiny air sacs in the lung tissue that allow the bloodstream to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide.
The asbestos fibers gradually make it harder for the alveoli to work properly, leading to shortness of breath, scarring of lung tissue, and asbestosis.
“Risk of asbestosis is generally related to the amount and the duration of exposure to asbestos. The greater the exposure is, the greater the risk is of lung damage.”
— Mayo Clinic
Though asbestosis is only caused by asbestos exposure, the Mayo Clinic notes that smoking can make the condition worse.
Smoking may make it harder for the body to remove asbestos fibers trapped in the lungs, allowing asbestosis to progress more quickly.
Job Sites & Asbestosis Risk Factors
Anyone exposed to asbestos could develop asbestosis later in life. It generally takes a long period of time (20 to 50 years) for symptoms of asbestosis to appear.
That said, many of those who worked on job sites that used asbestos had a higher risk. Asbestos was used by many industries starting in the 1930s. It wasn’t until the late 1970s and early 1980s that asbestos was phased out due to the health risks.
The American Lung Association (ALA) notes that miners, manufacturers, or anyone else who worked with asbestos-based products are at the greatest risk of asbestosis.
Symptoms of Asbestosis
Asbestosis damages the lungs and prevents them from working properly, so symptoms usually affect the lungs and breathing.
Asbestosis symptoms include:
- Chest pain and tightness
- Crackling noise when breathing in
- Dry cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling full/loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Another sign of asbestosis is “clubbing” of the fingers and toes. This occurs when the fingertips and toes bulge out and the nails widen.
Doctors have several different options for diagnosing asbestosis.
- Basic Exam: Doctors will take note of your symptoms and medical history. They may also want to listen to your lungs with a stethoscope and see if they can hear any crackling sounds while you breathe. If asbestosis is suspected, you may need to see a specialized lung doctor called a pulmonologist.
- Imaging Scans: Doctors may want to use imaging scans, like an X-ray or a computed tomography (CT) scan, to look inside the lungs. Asbestosis makes the lungs look cloudy on a chest X-ray or CT scan.
- Lung Function Test: Doctors may perform a pulmonary function test to see how much air the lungs can hold. This test can help them determine how far the disease has progressed.
- Biopsy: The Mayo Clinic notes that you may need a biopsy in some cases. Through a biopsy, a sample of fluid or tissue is taken and looked at under a microscope. Doctors can see if you have asbestosis or a type of cancer using this test.
Be sure to tell your doctor if you ever were exposed to asbestos. Knowing this can help them rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.
Prognosis for Asbestosis Patients
A prognosis is the expected outcome of a disease. Asbestosis has a poor prognosis because it has no cure and it will get worse over time.
“Breathing asbestos fibers can cause a buildup of scar-like tissue in the lungs called asbestosis and result in loss of lung function that often progresses to disability and death.”
— Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Asbestosis was the cause of death for over 20,000 Americans between the years of 1999 and 2013, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
That said, your prognosis will depend on how badly your lungs have been damaged by the time of diagnosis.
Treatment of Asbestosis
While asbestosis can’t be cured, treatments can help you manage the symptoms and live longer.
To treat asbestosis, doctors may recommend:
- Not Smoking: Smoking can make the symptoms of asbestosis worse. Smoking also puts you at risk of lung cancer and other deadly illnesses. Stop smoking to ease the burden on your lungs.
- Exercising: Doctors may recommend an exercise program called pulmonary rehabilitation. This can help you improve your breathing and ease symptoms.
- Using Oxygen: Oxygen therapy can be very helpful if your lungs aren’t bringing in enough air. Supplemental oxygen is often given through masks or tubes attached to oxygen tanks.
In very severe cases of asbestosis, a lung transplant may be attempted. A lung transplant will replace your affected lung with a healthy one from a donor.
Help for Those With Asbestosis
You never deserved to develop asbestosis from simply doing your job. Sadly, that’s exactly what happened, and it could have been avoided.
Makers of asbestos-based products knew that asbestos was dangerous all the way back in the 1930s. However, they hid the facts since asbestos was a multimillion-dollar industry. They chose to let people get sick for decades all in the name of profits.
Thankfully, there are ways you can fight back if you developed asbestosis from working at an asbestos job site.
You can pursue financial compensation through an asbestosis lawsuit to pay for medical bills and other expenses. This money comes from the makers of the asbestos-based products that harmed you.
Our team can help you get started. Contact us for a free consultation now.
Is asbestosis a form of cancer?
No, asbestosis is not a type of cancer. However, it’s very dangerous and has no cure.
If you have asbestosis, you may also be at risk of asbestos-caused lung cancer or mesothelioma.
How long can you live with asbestosis?
Your life expectancy depends on the progression of the disease by the time you’re diagnosed. You may be able to live longer with asbestosis if it’s caught relatively early on.
Your doctors can give you a better idea on how long you’ll live after being diagnosed with asbestosis.
Can you cure asbestosis?
Unfortunately, asbestosis does not have a cure at this time. There are ways to manage the symptoms, though.
Treatments like supplemental oxygen, exercise programs, and even a lung transplant are all ways to ease symptoms and improve your quality of life. You may also qualify to join a clinical trial, which tests new treatments that could help.
Doctors can provide more health information so you can better manage asbestosis.
How long does asbestosis take to develop?
It usually takes 20 to 50 years for asbestosis to develop. The condition builds gradually over time as the asbestos fibers irritate the lungs over several decades.