In the world of asbestos exposure, there are those that emerge unscathed, there are others who wind up with mesothelioma cancer, and then there are some who walk away with a lung disease known as asbestosis.
The latter, while not a form of cancer, can be just as debilitating as mesothelioma though it carries a better prognosis and victims can often live with the disease for years.
That’s not to say, however, that those stricken with asbestosis won’t have a tough road ahead of them.
What Causes Asbestosis?
Just like mesothelioma, asbestosis is caused by exposure to and inhalation of asbestos fibers. The disease is commonly linked with the amphibole form of the mineral, which boasts thin, straight fibers rather than the curly ones associated with the more toxic serpentine variety.
Inhalation of these sharp fibers scars the lungs, causing thickening and hardening of lung tissue and making breathing difficult.
Symptoms of Asbestosis
Like mesothelioma, it can take some time for asbestosis to develop and for it to be diagnosed. Patients will often undergo a large amount of testing before a determination is made. However, every case is different and some people with asbestosis will suffer few symptoms while others are plagued with debilitating ones.
According to the American Lung Assocation, the most prevalent symptoms of asbestosis are:
• Shortness of breath
• Tightness in the chest
• A productive and persistent cough (one that produces mucus)
• Chest pain
• Loss of appetite
• A crackling, dry sound in the lungs, most evident when inhaling
When a patient who was exposed to asbestos appears with these symptoms, doctors will most likely determine a diagnosis through lung function tests, x-rays or other imaging tests, and perhaps a biopsy (to rule out mesothelioma).
Dealing with Asbestosis
There is no cure for asbestosis but it is treatable. Some patients will be able to lead very normal lives with treatment while others may find that their disease continues to progress and becomes more difficult to control.
Those with asbestosis will want to take whatever steps are necessary for loosening the music in their lungs so that can be expelled.
That might include something as simple as pounding on the chest or back to loosen the mucus or sitting/laying in a position that helps drain the mucus. Other options include medications that thin the mucus.
When the disease progresses, victims may decide they need oxygen to help them breathe. Severe cases may be candidates for lung transplants.
Furthermore, anyone with asbestosis who smokes cigarettes should cease smoking immediately. Smoking aggravates the disease. Worse, however, is the fact that a smoker with asbestosis has a much higher chance of developing mesothelioma than an asbestosis victim who does not smoke.
For workers of today, preventing asbestosis is much simpler. Individuals who might encounter asbestos on-the-job should always wear protective gear. Furthermore, compared to asbestos use of old, there is little asbestos used in the U.S. in the 21st century, so exposure is much less likely.
However, those working in old factories or homes, or with older automobiles should always be on the lookout for the material.
If you regularly worked with asbestos in the years before about 1980, you may be a prime candidate for the disease or you may have already been diagnosed with it. Tens of thousands of individuals were unknowingly exposed to the toxic mineral during their work lives and are now suffering from this and other related diseases.
If this describes you, remember that you may have some legal recourse in regards to this negligent exposure. For more information, consult an experienced attorney about potential compensation for your suffering.