Asbestosis is a chronic, non-cancerous breathing condition that develops as a result of prolonged asbestos exposure. Overtime, as people continually inhale toxic, carcinogenic asbestos fibers, they will start developing the severe scarring that is symptomatic of asbestosis.

As with other asbestos-related conditions such as mesothelioma, asbestosis symptoms typically don’t present themselves until decades after the initial asbestos exposure – up to 30 years later. Consequently, most cases of asbestosis will have progressed to severe, more critical stages by the time they are diagnosed.

Asbestosis Symptoms

Asbestosis symptoms are fairly general and, therefore, are often misdiagnosed to be other breathing conditions such as asthma or pneumonia. Common asbestosis symptoms usually include some combination of:

  • chest pain
  • chronic coughing
  • constricted lung tissues
  • decreased lung capacity
  • dyspnea (the medical term for shortness of breath)
  • fatigue
  • general breathing problems
  • significantly decreased endurance

Although asbestosis symptoms are non-specific and easily confused with symptoms of other conditions, persistence of these symptoms in the face of conventional treatments will indicate the presence of asbestosis or other more serious condition.

Asbestosis Diagnosis and Treatment

To confirm whether a patient suffers from asbestosis, doctors will gather a thorough medical history from the patient and will then perform:

  • CT scans
  • lung function and capacity tests
  • x-rays

Presence of lung scar tissue, along with a history of asbestos exposure, usually yields a positive asbestosis diagnosis.

To prevent asbestosis complications and help improve patients’ health, immediate treatment is vital after an asbestosis diagnosis. Because no cure currently exists for asbestosis, treatment generally involves minimizing symptoms and preventing the condition from worsening. Common asbestosis treatments will include:

  • lifestyle changes (especially stopping smoking and starting a regular exercise routine)
  • medication (to promote circulation, improve lung functioning, etc.)
  • vaccinations (to prevent the patient from developing other diseases that may complicate his or her health).

Asbestosis Complications

Keep in mind that, the longer asbestosis persists undiagnosed, the more likely it will grow in severity, causing patients to suffer from other, more serious conditions. Complications that may arise from lack of asbestosis treatment can include:

  • fluid buildup in the lungs (a condition medically referred to as pleural effusion)
  • heart problems
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • lung cancer (Asbestosis patients who smoke are far more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smoking asbestosis patients.)
  • mesothelioma (a rare type of cancer affecting the outer lining of the lungs, the lining of the abdominal cavity and/or the outer heart sac.)

Legal Help for Asbestosis

As with other conditions caused by asbestos exposure, consulting a lawyer after being diagnosed with asbestosis (or a related condition) is important. In most cases, patients’ asbestos exposure was preventable or could have been reduced, meaning that many cases of asbestosis could have been prevented.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with asbestosis, contact us today to discuss your legal rights and options.

Published November 17, 2011 by