Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. Prolonged exposure to these fibers can cause lung tissue scarring and shortness of breath. Asbestosis symptoms can range from mild to severe, and usually don’t appear until many years after continued exposure.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of asbestosis typically manifest after a significant amount of time has passed following asbestos exposure.
Breathing in asbestosis fibres may eventually scar the lungs of some people, which can lead to a number of symptoms, including;
- Shortness of breath – this may only occur after physical activity at first, but it can eventually become a more constant problem
- A persistent cough
- Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
- Chest pain
- In more advanced cases, clubbed (swollen) fingertips
The outlook for asbestosis can vary significantly, depending on the extent of damage to the lungs and whether any other conditions are present.
Asbestosis can get worse over time and severe cases can place a significant strain on a person’s health and shorten their life expectancy, but in many cases the condition progresses very slowly or not at all.
If a patient has asbestosis, they are at increased risk of developing lung cancer — especially if they smoke or have a history of smoking. Rarely, malignant mesothelioma, a cancer of the tissue around the lung, can occur many years after exposure to asbestos.
There’s no treatment to reverse the effects of asbestos on the alveoli. Treatment focuses on slowing the progression of the disease, relieving symptoms and preventing complications.
The patient will need routine follow-up care, such as chest X-rays or CT scans and lung function tests, at regular intervals depending on the severity of their condition.
- Therapy – to ease breathing difficulty caused by advanced asbestosis, the doctor might prescribe supplemental oxygen. Participating in a pulmonary rehabilitation program may help some people.
- Surgery – if the patient’s symptoms are severe, the patient might need a lung transplant.
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