Are you suffering from shortness of breath? Is there an unusual tightness in your chest? You may be having a condition called Asbestosis. Read on to know what is Asbestosis, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
Asbestosis is a respiratory disease that affects the parenchymal tissues of the lungs. It usually arises after a person breathes in asbestos fibers.
The disease was widespread in the United States during the 1940s and 50s when there was active Asbestos mining in the country. In the early ‘40s, about 10 million workers in the US were reported to be suffering from this condition. The disease has become very rare in recent years but can be highly damaging for sufferers.
Picture 1 – Asbestosis
Source – asbestosistreatment
Asbestosis Death Rate
According to a 2001 study, Asbestosis caused 550 deaths in the United States.
Symptoms of Asbestosis
Some of the main Asbestosis Symptoms are :
Asbestosis patients usually suffer from shortness of breath. The breathlessness gets worse with time and increases with exertion. This is one of the main Asbestosis exposure symptoms. In many people, there is a dry, cackling sound while coughing.
Sufferers of Asbestosis experience tightness in the chest. This is usually accompanied with pain in the chest area. The discomforts are not restricted to any particular area of chest.
Individuals with Asbestosis usually have a persistent cough that may or may not bring out saliva. A productive cough suggests a respiratory infection or a concomitant bronchitis.
In people suffering for a considerable period from Asbestosis weight loss is common.
Asbestosis patients can also suffer from swellings on the neck or face.
Loss of Appetite
Sufferers may also have a loss of eating sensation. A person with this disease loses the inclination to eat after suffering from the disorder for a point of time.
Over time, an individual affected with Asbestosis can also suffer from other health problems. Asbestosis causes many associated symptoms like difficulties in swallowing, nausea, anemia, sudden fever and night sweats. In people handling Asbestos fibers, there can be nail abnormalities and thickening of fingers.
Asbestosis occurs in people inhaling Asbestos fibers. Breathing in Asbestos fibers leads to Fibrosis or the formation of scar tissues inside the lungs. Lung tissues, once scarred, fail to expand and contract normally and perform exchange of gases. This causes Asbestosis.
Before 1975, Asbestos fibers were extensively used in construction. This affected workers who were engaged in industries like mining, milling, fireproofing and construction. It also had an indirect effect on family members of such people who were exposed to the particles that stuck to the workers’ clothing. Government regulations on Asbestos fiber use in recent years have brought the disease down significantly.
Smoking increases risk of Asbestosis significantly.
Initial Asbestosis Screening involves Auscultation. Doctors use a Stethoscope for listening to crackling sounds coming from within the chest while diagnosing Asbestosis. Other ways of Asbestosis testing involve CT scan of the lungs, Gallium Lung Scan and Pulmonary Function Tests. In most sufferers of Asbestosis Chest X Rays are also carried out.
There is no sure Asbestosis treatment. Asbestosis cure mainly involves reducing the symptoms through natural and medical means. Doctors usually prescribe Aerosol medicines to make secretions thin. Chest vibration, Chest Percussion and Postural Drainage is often employed to remove secretions from the lungs of affected people.
In severe cases, patients may require lung transplantation. This is useful in curing the symptoms immediately and preventing death of sufferers from excessive Asbestosis.
It is necessary to stop further exposure to Asbestos to help sufferers make a faster recovery. An oxygen mask is provided to Asbestosis patients to help them breathe pure oxygen. Mild cases of Asbestosis can be treated with Oxygen therapy. This is effective in correcting underlying Hypoxia and shortness of breath.
Asbestosis can be prevented by quitting smoking or at least by cutting down cigarettes to a minimum. Studies have shown that a smoker with Asbestosis is 55 times likelier to develop cancer than a non-smoker. If you are smoking and have to work in construction or similar industries, it is about time you kick the butt.
People who are into construction and have to work with Asbestos can avoid the condition by the use of industrial safety masks that make breathing comfortable and block harmful particles from entering the airways and damaging the lungs.
The prognosis of Asbestosis depends on the severity and duration of Asbestos exposure. If left untreated, Asbestosis patients can develop complications like Pleural Effusion and Malignant Mesothelioma. The latter disease is a deadly one and can cause death in 75% of sufferers within a year.
Asbestosis Related Diseases
Asbestosis is also known as Pulmonary Fibrosis and Interstitial Pneumonitis. These are two conditions that develop in people from Asbestos exposure. Malignant Mesothelioma and Pleural Effusion are two other diseases related to this condition.
Asbestosis Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is one of the most serious complications arising in people with Asbestosis. Lung cancer from this disease is directly related to the level of asbestos fiber exposure. The greater the level of asbestos inhalation, the more is the risk of cancer. As aforesaid, heavy smokers are also at great risk of developing Lung Cancer once they suffer from Asbestosis.
In worse cases of Asbestosis Mesothelioma can also occur. Malignant Mesothelioma is a rare kind of lung cancer arising from Asbestosis of the lungs. It occurs when asbestos fibers get lodged in the lining surrounding the outer part of the lungs. It leads to the growth of malignant tumors that can rapidly enlarge and spread to other organs.
Asbestosis may also cause Pleural Mesothelioma which is Mesothelioma in the lining of lungs, Pericardial Mesothelioma affecting the heart lining and Peritoneal Mesothelioma affecting the abdomen. These are some of the other major Asbestosis related diseases.
If you have been exposed to Asbestos fibers and suspect yourself to be suffering from Asbestosis symptoms, it is advisable that you get a chest x ray done immediately. Early screening will help you begin treatment faster and avoid the condition from getting more complicated.