Asbestosis is the direct result of asbestos exposure. This condition develops when asbestos particles have been inhaled and become embedded in the lungs, leading to irritation and the development of scar tissue. This, in turn, causes the lungs to stiffen, which restricts air flow and ultimately inhibits breathing and causes a dry, raspy cough.
It is not uncommon for asbestosis to be misdiagnosed in part because of the rarity of this condition. Furthermore, asbestosis may not present symptoms or fully develop until up to 10 years after asbestos exposure.
Common symptoms of asbestosis include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent dry cough
- Crackling sounds that accompany breathing
- Chest pain or tightness
- Loss of appetite
While there is no cure for asbestosis, the symptoms of the disease are treatable through a number of therapies and medications. If you have been exposed to asbestos at any time, make sure to notify your doctor of this exposure, whether you are experiencing asbestosis symptoms or not.
A mild case of asbestosis may not affect the patient’s life at all, but more severe asbestosis can be fatal. Cardiac failure and respiratory failure may result from severe asbestosis. Patients who have asbestosis also suffer a depleted immune system, and thus are more likely to contract illnesses such as pneumonia or the flu.
As with other asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, treatment of asbestosis is most successful when started at an early stage of the disease. If a patient has been diagnosed with asbestosis, he or she should immediately stop asbestos exposure and quit smoking. Since asbestosis progresses slowly and there is currently no cure for this condition, treatments are designed to ease the symptoms of asbestos and may include supplemental oxygen or breathing therapy.