Wondering if you have a disease, or waiting for a prognosis if you’ve just discovered you have one, can be a tortuous experience. Worries can quickly transform into overwhelm, making life difficult in the extreme – even for people who normally have it all together.
If you’re worried about asbestosis or another asbestos-related disease, you need information. Learning about asbestos, as well as the diseases it causes and what your options are, will help you proceed with less fear and more clarity. Since asbestosis is one of the most common negative outcomes from asbestos exposure, it’s high on the list.
Remember, knowledge is power, so here’s your daily dose of asbestos knowledge today.
What Is Asbestos?
Long hailed as a wonder-mineral, asbestos performs extremely well in a variety of situations. As the Mesothelioma Center explains, “Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral substance that can be pulled into a fluffy consistency. Asbestos fibers are soft and flexible yet resistant to heat, electricity and chemical corrosion. Pure asbestos is an effective insulator, and it can also be mixed into cloth, paper, cement, plastic and other materials to make them stronger.”
Unfortunately, the crystalline composition of asbestos makes it very dangerous. Each visible strand is made of countless microscopic strands, which are so delicate that they shatter easily on moving the fiber around. These airborne particles can then enter lungs, embedding there, migrating to other organs, and causing cancer or other diseases.
Asbestosis is prime among them. The World Health Organization offers a compelling argument for taking asbestos seriously: “Currently, about 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace. Approximately half of the deaths from occupational cancer are estimated to be caused by asbestos. In addition, it is estimated that several thousand deaths annually can be attributed to exposure to asbestos in the home.”
What Is Asbestosis?
According to the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center, asbestosis is “a chronic lung disease resulting from scar tissue on the tissue lining of the lungs after prolonged asbestos exposure.”
These scars affect the lung’s tiny structures, alveoli, which are responsible for taking in air and sending it on to the rest of the body. As a result, explains Healthline, “The scarring restricts your breathing and interferes with the ability of oxygen to enter your bloodstream. Other names for this disease are pulmonary fibrosis and interstitial pneumonitis.”
Although asbestosis is not as pernicious as malignant mesothelioma – a type of cancer associated with membranous organ linings – the one often leads to the other.
What Are the Main Symptoms?
The main symptoms of asbestosis all relate to the restriction of the lungs and the lack of oxygen in the body. The main symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness and breathing restrictions
- Chest pain
- Dry cough
- Finger clubbing, an enlargement and rounding of the tips
- Nail deformities, softening or sponginess
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
Any of the above symptoms are cause for concern if they persist for long periods of time. If you or a loved one experiences any of the above, it’s time to see a doctor. Specifically, you should see a physician if:
- You have a history of exposure to asbestos that may explain the symptoms
- Any of the symptoms are getting worse, even if it’s only slowly
- You or a loved one experiences chronic dizziness or passes out
Overall, it’s critical to make an appointment if you notice any abnormal changes in your health that you think might be related to breathing difficulties. Asbestos may lurk unnoticed for many decades after exposure, so it often takes people by surprise. With continual monitoring, both noting of symptoms at home as well as regular checkups from a physician, you’re likelier to catch it sooner and survive longer should anything go wrong.
How Is Asbestosis Diagnosed?
The first step in diagnosing asbestosis is to see a physician, explains the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. They will listen to your lungs, check your legs for swelling, and examine your fingers and toes for clubbing – a rounding and distending of the tips, which is a sign of lung and heart trouble. If they believe asbestosis likely, they will order more tests, including:
- Chest X-ray, which may indicate the presence of asbestos damage through thickening of the lungs
- CT scan, a more detailed type of X-ray
- Lung function tests, which monitor your capacity to take in air and release it
- Biopsy or tissue sample, which physicians will only do after they complete the other tests and determine that asbestosis is likely
Because a biopsy is the only true way to determine asbestosis, physicians will need to complete this before confirming the diagnosis. They may collect the tissue sample either via tube through the nose or mouth, or through the chest wall. For both, the doctor will do everything necessary to ensure your comfort throughout the procedure.
What Is the Outlook?
For those diagnosed with asbestosis, the prognosis varies widely. Some people have mild cases and do not aggravate their lungs further (such as through smoking), so they have a much better chance of living a long and normal life. Others have severe thickening of the chest walls, which causes a great deal of discomfort and breathlessness and make other complications more likely, especially for smokers.
Although asbestosis is itself a concern, one of its most worrying aspects is that it frequently leads to malignant mesothelioma, an extremely aggressive type of cancer for which there is no known cure. Mesothelioma attacks the lining (called the mesothelium) of the lungs, heart, abdominal cavity or testicles. Once diagnosed with this condition, the prognosis is typically devastating. Most people don’t get more than 1-2 years, though some may live as long as 5. There are cases of mesothelioma survivors, however, so never stop fighting.
What Types of Treatment Are Available?
In the fight against mesothelioma, there exist a number of potential treatments. These include:
- Radiation, administered via X-rays or other forms of radiation, to target malignant cells
- Chemotherapy, chemical cocktails that fight cancer
- Surgery to remove cancerous masses
How Can You Get Help?
If you have asbestosis, mesothelioma or other asbestos-related damage, it’s time to speak to an attorney. They can help you get a settlement from your employer, join a class action suit or otherwise receive compensation for the damage done to you. If a loved one is suffering from or has died of asbestosis, you have the right to pursue compensation as well. Get in touch with an attorney to set up a consultation today.
- What Is Asbestos? (2018). Retrieved from https://www.asbestos.com/asbestos/
- Asbestos. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.maacenter.org/asbestos/
- Asbestosis. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/asbestosis
- Asbestos: Elimination of Asbestos-Related Disease. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/asbestos-elimination-of-asbestos-related-diseases
- Asbestos-Related Lung Diseases. (ND). Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/asbestos-related-lung-diseases
- Does Mesothelioma Cancer Cause a Cough? (2019). Retrieved from https://www.mesolawsuitafterdeath.com/mesothelioma/does-mesothelioma-cancer-cause-a-cough/