Definition

What is this health condition?

Asbestosis is a disease that scars the lungs as a result of breathing asbestos. Asbestos is a name of group of natural fibers that were formerly used in a various industrial products due to their resistance to burning and for insulation. Up to 20-30 years may pass between exposure to asbestos and development of asbestosis.

The probability of developing disease, usually several years after exposure, increases with longer and more intense asbestos exposures. Asbestos-related diseases cannot be caught but can be prevented by avoiding asbestos exposure.

Asbestos can cause diseases of lung and pleura (layer of tissue covering the lungs), including pleural plaque, pleural effusion, and development of cancer of the lining of the lung (malignant mesothelioma). It can also increase the risk of lung cancer.

How common is this health condition?

Most people with asbestosis acquired it on the job before the federal government began regulating the use of asbestos and asbestos products in the 1970s. Today, its handling is strictly regulated. Acquiring asbestosis is extremely unlikely if you follow your employer’s safety procedures.

Signs & symptoms

What are some signs and symptoms of this health condition?

Shortness of breath is the most common symptom because of small, stiff lungs that were scarred by breathing in asbestos fibers. Chronic cough and phlegm (mucus) production are also common.

Pleural plaques (thickened parts of lungs linings) generally don’t cause symptoms but may be related to a greater risk of developing cancer of the lining of the lung (mesothelioma). Pleural effusion is fluid that collects in the space between the lungs and chest wall. Smaller effusions may cause no symptoms larger ones can cause shortness of breath.

Symptoms of malignant mesothelioma include chest pain, weight loss and shortness of breath.

There may be some signs ro symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptoms, please consult your doctor or pharmacist.

 When should I see my doctor?

If you have a history of exposure to asbestos and you’re experiencing increasing shortness of breath, talk to your doctor about the possibility of asbestosis.

Causes

What causes this health condition?

Exposure most often occurred at work. Employees at greatest risk included those who mined, milled, or transported asbestos. Others at risk were people such as car repair and construction workers who installed, fixed, or tore down products made with asbestos; people (painters, carpenters) who worked near where asbestos was used; and those living near asbestos factories or mines.

What can trigger or worsen this health condition?

  • Go near people with respiratory infections.
  • Come in contact with lung irritants such as smoke and very cold or humid air.
  • Smoke.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for this health condition?

People who worked in mining, milling, manufacturing, installation or removal of asbestos products before the late 1970s are at risk of asbestosis. Examples include:

  • Asbestos miners
  • Aircraft and auto mechanics
  • Building construction workers
  • Workers removing asbestos insulation around steam pipes in older buildings
  • Electricians
  • Shipyard workers
  • Boiler operators
  • Railroad workers

In general, it’s safe to be around materials that are made with asbestos as long as the asbestos fibers are contained. This prevents them from getting into the air.

Treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. ALWAYS consult your doctor or pharmacist.

What are my treatment options for this health condition?

Treatments are limited. None can reverse or prevent lung scarring. Some people with severe progressive disease may benefit from lung transplants. Oxygen may be prescribes to improve shortness of breath and stamina. Inhalers to help breathing may also be prescribed. Further asbestos exposure should be avoided, because more exposure seems to increase risk for additional disease. The amount of safe, low-level exposure isn’t clear.

No treatment is needed for pleural plaques, except for follow-up. Prognosis is very poor for mesothelioma because there are no effective treatments.

What are the most common test for this health condition?

The doctor makes a diagnosis on the basic of symptoms (shortness of breath, chronic cough) plus asbestos exposure, and findings of lung examinations and chest x-rays.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies help manage this health condition?

  • Avoid all future asbestos exposures.
  • Follow all recommended procedures, such as wearing protective masks, when working with asbestos.
  • Get a yearly flu shot and a pneumococcal pneumonia shot.
  • Keep your heart healthy by exercising.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Call your doctor if you have increased cough, yellow or green sputum, more shortness of breath, fever, or chills.

Call your doctor if you have chest pain, new ankle swelling, weight loss, blood in the sputum, or dusky skin, fingertips, or lips.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

Want to live your best life?
Get the Hello Doktor Daily newsletter for health tips, wellness updates and more.