What Is Asbestosis?
Asbestosis is a permanent form of lung damage that occurs after repeatedly coming in contact with asbestos, particularly through breathing in asbestos dust. The first symptoms of this type of lung disease include having trouble breathing, coughing excessively, wheezing, and experiencing chest pain.
Asbestosis vs. Mesothelioma
Asbestosis and mesothelioma are two different diagnoses. A mesothelioma diagnosis means that the patient has cancer in the thin layer of tissue that lines the lungs, abdomen, heart, or testicles.
It is possible to be diagnosed with both asbestosis and mesothelioma at the same time. Each illness has different causes, diagnosing procedures, risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options. Unfortunately, neither pulmonary disease has a cure, as this type of lung damage cannot be reversed. Both illnesses also take many years, even decades, to develop and present symptoms.
What Causes Asbestosis?
The only known cause of asbestosis is prolonged exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that is nonflammable. Because of its fire-resistant features, asbestos has historically been used in a wide range of industries, such as car repair, construction, cosmetics, electricity, gas, oil, and plumbing. It was also present on various shipyard and military sites, thus impacting many of the workers who spent years coming in close physical contact with asbestos-laced products.
In areas with high concentrations of asbestos dust in the air, small fibers of the substance are inhaled through the nose and mouth. Long-term exposure to these fibers can lead to a diagnosis of asbestosis.
Symptoms of Asbestosis
Symptoms of asbestosis, which can range from mild to severe, atypically appear 10 to 40 years after exposure.
- Chest pain and tightness
- Clubbing of fingertips (appearing abnormally larger and wider)
- Dryness when inhaling
- Loss of appetite
- Persistent dry cough with a crackling sound
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
An official asbestosis diagnosis typically includes a combination of medical tests and the patient’s disclosure of asbestos exposure history.
The most common testing method to check for asbestosis is through a chest X-ray or an imaging procedure known as a CT scan. Your doctor will examine the images and look for signs of scarring on your lungs.
Your physician may also use a breathing test or lung function test to check how your lungs work during periods of rest and exercise.
You will probably be asked about your smoking history, as smoking can have a severe negative impact on the lungs. Your doctor may also inquire about any exposure to asbestos, which you may have experienced at work or secondhand through a member of your household. This is especially important for veterans, who may have been exposed to asbestos during their time of service.
Stages of Asbestosis
Based on the results of your chest X-ray or CT scan, your doctor will determine your current stage of asbestosis. The three stages listed below depend on how much damage your lungs have.
In the first stage of asbestosis, the bottom part of the lungs typically show a netlike pattern.
If the asbestosis has progressed enough to reach the second stage, images of the heart and diaphragm in the chest X-ray or CT scan will be blocked by spots of scarred tissue.
Images taken at the third stage of asbestosis will show a honeycomb pattern at the top of the lungs.
Asbestosis Life Expectancy
The average life expectancy of patients diagnosed with asbestosis depends on the extent of damage to their lungs. In some instances, the disease progresses slowly, offering the possibility of a higher life expectancy rate.
Life expectancy also depends on other diseases that can develop as a result of asbestosis, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and pleural disease. People with asbestosis are at a higher risk of developing these other related illnesses. In fact, in many cases of asbestosis, patients die from lung cancer or mesothelioma, rather than from asbestosis.
Asbestosis Treatment Options
Sadly, a cure for asbestosis does not exist yet. However, there are several treatment options that can improve the quality of life for patients with this disease:
- Aerosol medicines to thin lung fluids
- Draining fluid from the lungs
- Lung transplant
Asbestosis Claims and Compensation
If you have been diagnosed with asbestosis as a result of extended asbestos exposure, you may be entitled to compensation.
LawFirm.com is connected to a network of asbestos lawyers all over the country and can help you select the right legal professional to fight on your behalf. The asbestos lawyers we work with don’t charge clients any upfront or out-of-pocket fees, so there is no financial risk.
The first step in filing an asbestosis lawsuit is to see if you have a case. Contact us today to discuss your case and explore your options.
FAQs About Asbestosis
Is asbestosis the same as mesothelioma?
No, asbestosis and mesothelioma are not the same disease. Although it is often associated with malignant mesothelioma, which is a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure, asbestosis does not spread beyond the lungs and respiratory tract. Having asbestosis puts patients at a higher risk for also developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
Is asbestosis cancer?
No, asbestosis is not considered a form of cancer. Asbestosis is a type of lung disease. It does not qualify for a cancer diagnosis.
What are the first signs of asbestosis?
The most common symptoms of asbestosis include pain and tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, and excessive dry coughing. Some people also notice that they have clubbed fingers, which is when fingernails appear wider and larger than usual.
What is the main cause of asbestosis?
The number one cause of asbestosis is repeated exposure to asbestos. Breathing in tiny asbestos fibers can lead to scarred lung tissues, among other serious health conditions.