Asbestosis – Treatment, Prevention

Overview

Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease caused by breathing in asbestos fibers in the air. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can cause inflammation and scarring of lung tissues. This is called “fibrosis.” There is no treatment for asbestosis. The key to prevent the disease is to wear proper protective masks in the work place.

Causes

Breathing in asbestos fibers can cause scar tissue (fibrosis) to form inside the lung. Scarred lung tissue does not expand and contract normally, making it difficult to breathe. Before the federal government began regulating the use of asbestos and asbestos products in the 1970s, most people with asbestosis acquired it on the job.

Asbestos exposure occurred in asbestos mining and milling, construction, fireproofing, and other industries. Families of asbestos workers can also be exposed from particles brought home on the worker’s clothing. The severity of asbestosis depends on how long you were exposed to asbestos and the amount you inhaled. The symptoms often go unnoticed for 20 years or more after the asbestos exposure.

Here is a list of common products and materials containing asbestos:

  • Roofing and siding shingles
  • Plaster, cement, putties and caulk used on wall and ceilings
  • Insulation systems for attic, wall, wood-burning stoves, oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets
  • Vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives
  • Hot water and steam pipe wrapping
  • Heat-resistant fabrics
  • Automobile clutch pads and brake linings

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • A persistent dry cough
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Loss of appetite with weight loss
  • A dry, crackling sound in the lungs while breathing in
  • Fingertips and toes that appear wider and rounder than normal (clubbing)

Diagnosis

The doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about the symptoms, including your breathing (both at rest and during exercise) and your jobs in details to determine how much you were exposed to asbestos. Hence, it would be better for you to prepare the following information in advance:

  • Your symptoms and the time they started
  • Treatments given before for the symptoms
  • The work you have done in your entire career and the length of time you spent in each job
  • The products you were in contact with at work and whether or not you wore protective equipment
  • Smoking history

During the physical examination, your doctor will listen to your lungs with a stethoscope, so the provider can determine if the sounds are normal or not. Then, your doctor may order the following tests:

  • Chest x-ray
  • CT scan of the lungs
  • Lung function tests

Treatment

There is no treatment to reverse the damage done by asbestos. Stopping exposure to asbestos is essential. You can take certain steps to help ease the symptoms and slow down the progression. You’ll need routine follow-up care, such as chest X-rays and lung function tests, at regular intervals depending on the severity of your condition.

  • Therapy
    To ease breathing difficulty, your may need to receive supplemental oxygen. This is delivered by thin plastic tubing with prongs that fit into your nostrils or a mask.
  • Surgery
    If your symptoms are severe, you might be recommended taking a lung transplant.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

  • Stop smoking. Asbestosis increases the risk of lung cancer. Quitting smoking can reduce this risk. Try to avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Get vaccinated. Flu and pneumonia vaccines do not treat asbestosis, but are recommended for almost everyone with lung disease.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation. It is an exercise program designed to help all patients with chronic lung conditions.

If you have any other problems, please consult your doctor.


Keyword: Asbestosis.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.