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Asbestosis Cause, Diagnosis, Treatments, Risks and Legal Help

Definition: Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease caused by asbestos that results in diminished lung capacity.

Causes: The only known cause of developing asbestosis is exposure to asbestos.

Diagnosis: Asbestosis shares symptoms with other lung diseases so doctors must be aware of any history of asbestos exposure so that a proper diagnosis can be made.

Treatments: Asbestosis cannot be cured, so treatment plans focus on symptom management and on slowing the development of the disease.

Risks: If asbestosis progresses to an advanced stage, patients may require constant supplemental oxygen or even a lung transplant.

Definition of Asbestosis

Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease that causes scar tissue formation throughout the pulmonary system. The scar tissue results from asbestos fibers permanently trapped in the lungs causing physical damage to cell membranes, inflammation of lung tissue, and disruption of cell division.

Asbestosis is sometimes misdiagnosed as idiopathic or diffuse pulmonary fibrosis, often because the physician is not aware of Asbestos exposure history and has no other explanation for the pulmonary fibrosis.

Asbestosis is not cancer; however, it is a serious health condition that doesn't go away and often gets worse with time. Its affects breathing and lung function in a way that can be managed but cannot be cured. It also increases the likelihood of developing mesothelioma and lung cancer in the future. Fortunately, asbestosis develops gradually, with a latency period of 12-60 years and often people with Asbestosis can live out their natural lifespan.

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Causes of Asbestosis

Asbestos exposure is the only known documented cause of developing asbestosis. Asbestos fibers are extremely tiny particles that can easily be inhaled and travel to the lungs. Even though the particles are very small in size, they are also extremely sharp and durable. Because of natural body motion such as breathing and moving, these asbestos fibers move around and damage the lungs, causing the development of asbestosis.

Contrary to popular belief, asbestosis cannot be caused by smoking cigarettes or any other cause. It can only be medically linked to asbestos exposure. However, cigarette smoking may increase the risk of an individual retaining asbestos fibers in the lungs, and often results in a quicker progression of the disease. Smoking also causes additional stress on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. It is recommended that anyone with a diagnosis of asbestosis avoid smoking.

Diagnosing Asbestosis

As with other asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma and lung cancer, it can take decades for the disease to develop and be diagnosed. Asbestosis can be caused by exposures from 12-60 years prior to diagnosis.

Diagnosing Asbestosis

The early symptoms of asbestosis can be difficult to recognize because the disease has common problems such as shortness of breath, persistent cough, and weight loss. It is important that your doctor is aware of any asbestos exposure you may have had (even as a child) as any exposure to asbestos can affect how your symptoms are treated and what type of testing is recommended.

Keep in mind that asbestosis can be caused by direct work exposures to asbestos-containing dust, but can also come from indirect exposure to fibers that travel home on workers clothing, hair, and skin.

Asbestosis can be diagnosed with a Pulmonary Function Test (PFT) in combination with radiological images, such as chest X-rays or CT scans. Chest images reveal the pattern of scarring that asbestos causes in the lung tissue and a PFT measures the effects asbestosis has on breathing. Pulmonary function tests can be performed in your doctor's office and involve breathing into a plastic tube hooked up to a machine that can record the intake and output of your lungs.

Asbestosis Treatments

Treatment for asbestosis involves mainly observation and disease management. Since scar tissue is the mechanism of injury, and scar tissue is irreversible - there is no cure for asbestosis. However, in many cases, combinations of bronchodilators (inhalers), oxygen, and physical therapy can slow the progression of the disease. Many patients can live with their Asbestosis for decades, and proper management of your Asbestos-related disease can alleviate symptoms and enable a better quality of life.

Risks of Asbestosis

Treatment for asbestosis involves mainly observation and disease management. Since scar tissue is the mechanism of injury, and scar tissue is irreversible - there is no cure for asbestosis. However, in many cases, combinations of bronchodilators (inhalers), oxygen, and physical therapy can slow the progression of the disease. Many patients can live with their Asbestosis for decades, and proper management of your Asbestos-related disease can alleviate symptoms and enable a better quality of life.

Risks of Asbestosis

The bigger risk of Asbestosis is the increased risk of developing mesothelioma or lung cancer. The diagnosis alone is proof of significant asbestos exposure. The ongoing scarring and genetic damage to cells from Asbestos fibers can cause a cell to become malignant. These malignant cells can form tumors and spread if the immune system does not quickly recognize the threat.

If you have scarring from asbestosis, your doctor may have you follow up a few times a year to visualize any dense areas of scar tissue that could be suspicious for cancer. A change in the shape or size of a spot on your lung (like a pleural plaque or granuloma) could result in the doctor recommending a biopsy for further examination.

Early detection of changes is beneficial for the treatment of Asbestosis and any form of an asbestos related cancer.

Diagnosed with Asbestosis?

If you have been diagnosed with asbestosis, or have had a biopsy (or are scheduled to have one in the future), please give us a call at (855) 883-6447 to see if you are eligible for a potential claim.

Flint Law Firm would encourage you to contact us as soon as possible in this process. In our experience, our clients prefer to "get the legal stuff out of the way early" so that we can be working to protect your rights while you and your family focus on your health. In many cases we are able to get compensation quickly that can help with medical bills, insurance copays, travel costs for treatment, and other unanticipated expenses.

Call us for free and let us help: (855) 883-6447

Article Sources

  1. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000118.htm
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asbestosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354637
  3. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/295966-treatment
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17394680
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2304688/
  6. http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/asbestosis/asbestosis-symptoms-causes.html
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