Asbestosis is a lung disease that develops when asbestos fibers cause scarring in the lungs. The scarring limits the breathing and disrupts the oxygen capacity to enter the bloodstream. Other names for this disease are pulmonary fibrosis and interstitial pneumonia.
Many cases come from exposure to asbestos at workplace, before the federal laws governing them were issued in the mid-1970s. The disease takes years to develop and can be life-threatening. The total number of deaths associated with asbestos in the United States may exceed 200,000 by 2030, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and the Disease Register.
Know the symptoms of asbestosis
In most cases, the symptoms do not start appearing for about 20 years (ranging from 10 to 40 years) after exposure to asbestos.
Common symptoms of asbestosis are:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
- Persistent dry cough
- Chest pain
- Loss of appetite
- Clubbing fingers (enlarged fingers)
- Nail deformity
Causes and risk factors associated with asbestosis
When inhaling asbestos fibers, they can be embedded in the lungs and lead to the formation of scar tissue. This scarring is known as asbestosis. Scar tissue can make breathing difficult as it prevents lung tissue from developing and repairing themselves.
You can face the risk of developing a higher disease if you work in the area that uses asbestos before the federal laws governing the exposure is being applied. Asbestos is often found in construction and mining jobs. Asbestos is still used in certain industries, but is closely monitored by the government through the EPA.
In addition, you face a greater likelihood of developing asbestos and other related diseases if you smoke.
Testing and Diagnosis of Asbestosis
Your doctor will do some tests to see if you have asbestosis and exclude other conditions that have similar symptoms.
- First, doctors usually use a stethoscope to hear abnormal breathing sounds as part of a physical exam.
- Doctors can also order X-rays to look for white or honeycomb in the lungs or chest.
- Lung tests (lungs) can be used to measure the amount of air you can breathe and airflow to and from the lungs.
Your doctor may also try to see how oxygen is transferred from the lungs to your blood. CT scans can be used to examine the lungs in more detail. Doctors can also order biopsy to look for asbestos fibers in lung tissue samples.