Asbestosis is a medical condition that results from being exposed to asbestos. To put it simply, asbestosis is an inflammation of the lungs due to exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a group of minerals consisting of thin microscopic fibers. It’s been used in a multitude of products including paint, floor and ceiling tiles, plastics, automotive brake shoes and clutch pads and adhesives. If these products are disturbed, for instance the ceiling tiles are removed; the asbestos breaks away and can be breathed in. The asbestos becomes trapped in the lungs and can accumulate over time. After a number of years, this leads to serious health consequences.
The first illness that is usually seen with asbestos exposure is asbestosis. The symptoms of asbestosis include: shortness of breath, coughing that produces mucous, a dry cracking sound coming from the lungs when inhaling, loss of appetite and scarring of the lungs. The scarring will make it even harder to breathe. Two other symptoms that occasionally occur are nail abnormalities and clubbing of the fingers.
These symptoms can be associated with other illnesses, so it is important to see your doctor if you experience any of the above. If you have been exposed to asbestos in the past, it is important to bring this to your doctor’s attention. Asbestos exposure takes years to develop into asbestosis. It is usually 15 years of more before these symptoms begin to stand out. The severity of asbestosis depends on a number of factors including the length of time that the person was exposed to asbestos, the type of asbestos the person was exposed to, and whether the person smokes.
To diagnose asbestosis, a doctor will order a chest x-ray, a CT scan of the lungs, a Gallium lung scan and pulmonary function tests. A Gallium lung scan is a sophisticated imaging study that will show images of the diseased area. Once the doctor suspects asbestosis or an asbestos-related disease, a biopsy will be ordered. The biopsy may be able to detect the asbestos in the tissue of the sample taken.
If a patient exhibited signs or symptoms of asbestosis, and after a conclusive diagnose was made, the most important first step is to make sure that there is no further exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease. To ease the severity of the symptoms, the physician may prescribe aerosol medications to thin the mucous secretions. Some patients will need to receive oxygen. Of course, the patient should not smoke. Asbestosis can lead to more serious illness, including mesothelioma. The patient should be monitored for any worsening symptoms.