Asbestosis Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of asbestosis can show up many years after the asbestos exposure has ended. Manifestations rarely occur less than 10 years following first exposure and are more common after 20 years or more.
Symptoms (what a patient with asbestosis will experience)
Other symptoms include:
Signs (what your doctor will look for with asbestosis)
None of these symptoms are specific. Something as benign as the common cold could also give you these symptoms. Keep in mind that asbestosis is a chronic progressive disease meaning that once these symptoms start, they generally do not get better. Fortunately, the disease progresses slowly giving your doctor time to catch it.
Treatment and Prevention
Shortness of breath is treated with bronchodilators that open up the bronchial tubes and allow passage of air. The patient may also receive supplemental oxygen. Respiratory treatments that remove secretions from the lung through postural drainage may also be used.
Productive cough is treated with humidifiers, breathing therapies and chest percussion. These therapies loosen and thin out bronchial secretions allowing them to be expelled by the cough. Chest pain can be treated with normal over the counter drugs such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Once asbestosis has been established by findings on chest X-ray, regression of the disease is rare. The disease may remain unchanged, but it is generally slowly progressive due to accumulating damage caused by asbestos fibers in the lung. Rapid progression after the onset of symptoms is rare. Evidence of progression as seen on chest X-ray may require comparison of chest X-rays taken as many as 4-6 years apart.
There are several factors that determine progression, including the level and duration of exposure to asbestos, cumulative exposure, the type of asbestos fiber, and according to some studies, the status of the chest X-ray at the time of diagnosis. Progression will occur even in the absence of further exposure to asbestos, and it will likely be accelerated in the face of continued exposure.
As the disease progresses, the individualís shortness of breath becomes more pronounced. The shortness of breath initially experienced during heavy effort will be produced by lower levels of effort. It will eventually interfere with the ability to carry out everyday activities, and the individual may require oxygen. The end result of progression is failure of the lungs and eventual heart failure, resulting from the stress being placed on the heart.
Increased risk of infection may be a complication of asbestosis, although tuberculosis is uncommon. Individuals with asbestosis are at a considerably increased risk for developing lung cancer and other cancers associated with asbestos exposure, including mesothelioma and bronchogenic carcinoma.
There are certain measures a patient can take to slow the progression of the disease and prolong life. As mentioned previously, one way is to avoid further exposure to asbestos. Another thing is to stop smoking. Smoking may increase the rate of disease progression, and it definitely increases the risk of developing lung cancer.
Severe asbestosis is becoming a less common cause of death. More people are dying of other causes before their asbestosis progresses beyond the mild to moderate stage.
Asbestosis is a respiratory disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. Asbestosis is one form of lung disease related to asbestos inhalation. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause a variety of diseases, from thickening of the lining of the lungs, which is usually asymptomatic, to malignant mesothelioma (a cancer arising from the lining of the lung).
Pulmonary fibrosis - from asbestos exposure; Idiopathic interstitial pneumonitis - from asbestos exposure
Causes, incidence, and risk factors:
Inhaling asbestos fibers can cause scar tissue
(fibrosis) to form inside the lung. Scarred lung tissue
does not expand and contract (elasticity) normally. The
severity of the respiratory disease depends upon the
duration of exposure and the amount inhaled.
Signs and tests:
There is no cure available. Stopping further exposure to asbestos is indicated. Supportive treatment of symptoms includes respiratory treatments to remove secretions from the lungs by postural drainage, chest percussion, and vibration. Aerosol medications to thin secretions may be prescribed. Oxygen by mask or by a plastic piece that fits into the nostrils (cannula) may be needed.
The stress of illness can often be helped by joining a support group where members share common experiences and problems.
The outcome depends upon the duration and extent of
Calling your health care provider:
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if exposure to asbestos is suspected or if unexplained symptoms occur.
Early screening by chest X-ray of people who are exposed to asbestos.