Asbestosis is a respiratory diseases caused by inhaling asbestos fibres into the lungs. These fibres cause irritation and kill the white blood cells that the body releases to the affected area. People with occupational exposure are usually the ones that develop asbestosis. However, depending on the surrounding situation, it may also appear in someone that was mildly exposed to the fibres. There is no safe level for asbestos exposure known to scientists. Asbestos and asbestos related diseases may develop over 5 – 20 years.
The most common symptoms of asbestosis are only apparent 20-40 years after initial exposure. These usually include: chest tightening, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, and difficulty breathing. The presence of scar lung tissue is not easy to detect before the 20-40 years. As a result, the scar will progressively grow until symptoms can be felt. Many patients that develop asbestosis die from breathing complications that trigger heart failure. The lungs become unable to produce enough oxygen, and this causes the heart to become overworked until it eventually collapses. Regular check-ups are necessary to accompany the damage to the lungs. The extent of the damage will depend on how many fibres are in the lungs and the type of asbestos.
X-ray exams can detect damaged lung tissue. A shadow on the lung is a sign of thickening of the lungs caused by asbestosis. A CT-scan is another reliable option that can show images of the lungs and other organs. There are also cases in which a biopsy may be required. A biopsy is a very invasive surgery that involves the surgical removal of lung tissue. This type of operation will confirm the presence of asbestos in the lungs; however, it cannot determine the number of fibres that are present.
There are no known treatments for asbestosis. The best solution is to avoid possible exposure whether for short or long periods. A lung transplant is a surgical option that some doctors may suggest. If part of the lung cannot function properly, then it may be necessary remove it.
Common Exposure Risks
Tradesmen involved in demolitions and renovations run the risk of developing asbestosis r asbestos related diseases if exposed to the deadly asbestos fibres. The same is true for anyone that occupies a building that has asbestos containing materials (ACMs) that are damaged and releasing airborne fibres.