Asbestos Related Lung Disease

By Medically reviewed by Hello Doktor Medical Panel

Asbestos is a group of mineral fibers that are strong and fire-resistant. Many industries use it. Low-quality products containing asbestos are likely to release them into the air. When people breathe those tiny fibers in, they will get stuck in the lungs, causing many serious lung diseases. It is called asbestos poisoning.

You can be exposed to asbestos without knowing. It can happen in almost anyplace, from school to work, even in your neighborhood. Because of the health concern related to asbestos, it has been used less in furniture, constructions and vehicles. Although most cases of asbestos poisoning happen to workers who have to work with it daily, studies have suggested that family members also face the risk due to the asbestos residue caught on the workers’ clothes, skin and hair.

Factors of damage asbestos

The extent of damage asbestos cause to a person will depend on may factor, including:

  • Level of the exposure
  • Duration of the exposure
  • The characteristics of the specific asbestos, such as shape, size and chemical composition
  • The current state of the lungs

The risk of asbestos poisoning can also increase to to  tobacco.

Asbestos-related lung cancer usually develops slowly, sometimes up to 15 years or more after exposure. For mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer, it might take 30 years to surface.

Symptoms of asbestos poisoning and cancer

Possible symptoms of asbestos poisoning are:

  • Coughing with snot
  • Pain in the chest
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lung crackles, especially when breathing in.

When the condition has advanced to cancer, patients may experience:

  • Coughing with blood
  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Breathlessness
  • Voice changes
  • Anemia

If you notice any of the symptoms above, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. The doctor can diagnose asbestos poisoning with your medical history and a physical exam. Further tests (MRI or CT scans) may be necessary to evaluate your condition. To confirm the diagnosis you may also need a biopsy.

While you cannot reverse the damage asbestos has done, treatment can ease the symptoms and prevent further complications. You will need to quit smoking if you smoke. If your condition includes breathing problems, oxygen therapy is usually recommended. In case your diagnosis is  lung cancer or mesothelioma, available options are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. You may need to take additional medications to relieve the pain.

Since asbestos-related diseases usually take a lot of time to develop, it is not easy to detect if you have asbestos poisoning. Therefore, you need to pay attention to your health, especially if you work with asbestos on a daily basis. If any alarming symptoms appear, visit a doctor as soon as possible. Early treatment can prevent further damage.

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

msBahasa Malaysia

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Review Date: October 5, 2016 | Last Modified: December 9, 2019

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