Asbestosis is long-term inflammation and scarring of the lungs due to asbestos fibers. It 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 initial exposure.
Asbestos is a natural mineral product that’s resistant to heat and corrosion. It was used extensively in the past in products such as insulation, cement and some floor tiles.
There is no specific treatment. Recommendations may include influenza vaccination, pneumococcal vaccination, oxygen therapy, and stopping smoking. Asbestosis affected about 157,000 people and resulted in 3,600 deaths in 2015. Asbestos use has been banned in a number of countries in an effort to prevent disease.
Statistics from the UK’s Health and Safety Executive showed that in 2019, there were 490 asbestosis deaths.
The effects of long-term exposure to asbestos typically don’t show up until 10-40 years after initial exposure. Symptoms can vary in severity.
Asbestosis signs and symptoms may include:
*Shortness of breath
*A persistent, dry cough
*Chest tightness or pain
*Dry and crackling sounds in your lungs when you inhale
*Fingertips and toes that appear wider and rounder than usual (clubbing)
Asbestosis is caused by breathing in asbestos fibers. It requires a relatively large exposure over a long period of time, which typically only occur in those who directly work with asbestos.
If one is exposed to high levels of asbestos dust over a long period of time, some of the airborne fibers can become lodged within his or her alveoli — the tiny sacs inside the lungs where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide in your blood. The asbestos fibers irritate and scar lung tissue, causing the lungs to become stiff. This makes it difficult to breathe.
As asbestosis progresses, more and more lung tissue becomes scarred. Eventually,the lung tissue becomes so stiff that it can’t contract and expand normally.
Smoking appears to increase the retention of asbestos fibers in the lungs, and often results in a faster progression of the disease.
Those who worked in the production, milling, manufacturing, installation, or removal of asbestos products before the late 1970s are at an increased risk of exposure to asbestos. This includes people who worked in these jobs in the United States and Canada. For example:
*Aeronautical and car mechanics
*Workers who remove asbestos insulation from around a steam vessel in an old building
Construction workers who inhale asbestos from contaminated building materials such paint, spackling, roof shingles, masonry compounds, and drywall may get asbestosis The amount and length of an individual’s exposure to asbestos are the primary factors that determine the level of risk. The longer one is exposed to the substance, the higher their risk of developing lung damage.
Families of exposed workers can be affected because asbestos fibers from clothing and hair can end up in the home. People who live near mines can also be exposed to airborne asbestos fibers.
According to the American Thoracic Society (ATS), the general diagnostic criteria for asbestosis are:
*Evidence of structural pathology consistent with asbestosis, as documented by imaging or histology
*Evidence of causation by asbestos as documented by the occupational and environmental history, markers of exposure (usually pleural plaques), recovery of asbestos bodies, or other means
*Exclusion of alternative plausible causes for the findings
The abnormal chest x-ray and its interpretation remain the most important factors in establishing the presence of pulmonary fibrosis. The findings usually appear as small, irregular parenchymal opacities, primarily in the lung bases. Using the ILO Classification system, “s”, “t”, and/or “u” opacities predominate. CT or high-resolution CT (HRCT) are more sensitive than plain radiography at detecting pulmonary fibrosis (as well as any underlying pleural changes). More than 50% of people affected with asbestosis develop plaques in the parietal pleura, the space between the chest wall and lungs. Once apparent, the radiographic findings in asbestosis may slowly progress or remain static, even in the absence of further asbestos exposure. Rapid progression suggests an alternative diagnosis.
Asbestosis resembles many other diffuse interstitial lung diseases, including other pneumoconiosis. The differential diagnosis includes idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), hypersensitivity pneumonitis, sarcoidosis, and others. The presence of pleural plaques may provide supportive evidence of causation by asbestos. Although lung biopsy is usually not necessary, the presence of asbestos bodies in association with pulmonary fibrosis establishes the diagnosis. Conversely, interstitial pulmonary fibrosis in the absence of asbestos bodies is most likely not asbestosis. Asbestos bodies in the absence of fibrosis indicate exposure, not disease.
There is no cure available for asbestosis. Oxygen therapy at home is often necessary to relieve the shortness of breath and correct underlying low blood oxygen levels. Supportive treatment of symptoms includes respiratory physiotherapy to remove secretions from the lungs by postural drainage, chest percussion, and vibration. Nebulized medications may be prescribed in order to loosen secretions or treat underlying chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Immunization against pneumococcal pneumonia and annual influenza vaccination is administered due to increased sensitivity to the diseases. Those with asbestosis are at increased risk for certain cancers. If the person smokes, quitting the habit reduces further damage. Periodic pulmonary function tests, chest x-rays, and clinical evaluations, including cancer screening/evaluations, are given to detect additional hazards.
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.