When inhaled or ingested into the body, asbestos fibers create serious health problems. The deadliest of these is mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer. The major health problem faced by most people who have been exposed to asbestos, however, is asbestosis.
What is Asbestosis?
When high levels of asbestos fibers are inhaled, they may become embedded deep in the lungs, where they resist the body’s natural attempt to eliminate them by coughing. Some fibers may reach the outer lining of the lungs, or pleura. Over time, these asbestos fibers cause areas of hardened scar tissue, pleural thickening, and a buildup of fluid between the lungs and the pleura, all of which can make it harder for the patient to breathe. This condition is known as asbestosis, a non-cancerous and progressive lung disease.
The degree to which asbestosis affects breathing can vary depending on several factors. For many asbestosis sufferers, however, breathing is extremely difficult. If asbestos exposure continues, asbestosis can cause disability and even death.
Asbestosis can lead to other medical problems as well, such as pulmonary hypertension and heart failure, and people with asbestosis who also smoke have an increased risk for developing lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Symptoms of asbestosis progress as the disease gets worse. One early specific symptom of asbestosis is shortness of breath, or dyspnea. Other symptoms include a persistent dry cough, chronic fatigue, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, and a crackling sound in the lungs on inhalation. A less common symptom is a thickening of the ends of the fingers called clubbing.
The typical amount of time between initial asbestos exposure and a diagnosis of asbestosis is 10 to 20 years. To determine if you have asbestosis, your doctor may perform one or more of the following studies:
- Pulmonary function tests
- Chest X-ray
- CAT or CT scan
While there is no “cure” for asbestosis, a lung transplant may be an option for some patients. In most cases, however, treatment for asbestosis consists of oxygen therapy to relieve labored breathing and ease the strain on the heart. If you are experiencing a build-up of mucus in the lungs, your doctor may be able to suggest treatments to drain the mucus. If you smoke, you will be encouraged to reduce your risk for developing lung cancer by quitting.
Treatments for asbestosis and mesothelioma are costly, creating a financial burden for your family at a time when you may be too sick to work. A mesothelioma lawyer can fight to win you for compensation for your injuries. To set the wheels of justice in motion, call Sokolove Law today at 888-360-4215.