Asbestosis is a condition linked to the inhalation of asbestosis fibers. It typically takes years to produce symptoms, however patients who suffer from the disorder have a higher chance of developing cancers of the lung. Smoking further elevates these risks. Asbestosis typically results from the buildup of asbestos fibers in the lungs over an extended period of time, which leads to scarred lung tissue. These fibers are able to penetrate filters that normally prevent foreign particles from getting to the lungs because of their microscopic size.
The majority of individuals diagnosed with asbestosis were heavily exposed to asbestos while working prior to strict regulation of the toxic mineral’s use. Before the enactment of the legislation in the 1970s, asbestos was widely used in manufacturing, construction, mining, and other industries for its heat and decay resistant properties. The same kind of exposure to the mineral is far less common today, however several diagnoses of asbestos related diseases have only recently been made due to the expansive time frame between exposure and the surfacing of symptoms. Individuals may go decades without knowing they have asbestosis.
Symptoms of asbestosis may include dyspnea or shortness of breath, loss of appetite, chest tightness, chronic cough, and in advanced cases clubbed fingers. Diagnosis of the condition is normally done using an initial chest x-ray to determine whether scarring of lung tissue is present in conjunction with more sophisticated imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI, or biopsy of lung tissue.
Asbestosis is also referred to as “diffuse pulmonary fibrosis.” Although in most cases, the condition is not diagnosed until several years after long-term exposure, there have been cases where patients were afflicted with the condition after exposure in the short-term or through indirect contact.
It is important for those who may exhibit symptoms of asbestosis to ensure that their medical care provider has a good assessment of their work history in addition to other information relevant for making a proper diagnosis.