Asbestosis is an occupational lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. It is typically associated with asbestos exposure in the workplace. The disease has symptoms that include shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest tightness which progress to more severe conditions like heart failure and lung cancer. Symptoms of asbestosis can vary from person to person depending on the individual’s lifestyle and degree of exposure.
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A History of Asbestos Exposure
In 1907, employers started using asbestos during the manufacturing process because it had insulating and fire-resisting properties. This made asbestos an ideal product for many industries since there was no need to worry about fire hazards or damage from fire attacks from robbers or terrorists. One of the significant suppliers of asbestos was Johns-Manville, named after its CEO, J. Henry Johns.
Later on, employers started using asbestos in electrical insulation and other products like brake linings. It also came into use during the construction of buildings, bridges and roads.
In the 1950s, asbestos-based products were not only used by industries but also by homeowners and even by consumers.
The most popular product is asbestos flooring made from cement was widely used throughout the years until the 1990s, when they were found to be carcinogenic. The major source of exposure to individuals is having materials containing asbestos without their knowledge or consent.
It is important to realize that asbestosis is a preventable disease if the government and employers have taken appropriate measures to eliminate it from the workplace. If protection against asbestosis is possible, then it also gives hope to sufferers that there may be a cure for this disease.
Scar tissue, also known as pulmonary fibrosis, forms within the lungs, caused by inhaled asbestos fibers.
Dust from asbestos causes a disease known as pneumoconiosis or occupational disease of the lungs.
Shocking facts about asbestosis
- This kind of lung disease has no cure yet, making breathing difficult.
- It is caused by many years of occupational asbestos exposure.
- Asbestosis contributes almost 600 to more than 2,000 death in Americans yearly.
- It triggered a high risk of developing asbestos-related cancer.
Long time exposure to Asbestosis doesn’t show up 10 to 45nyears after one is exposed. Below are the commonly known symptoms:
- Chest pain and tightness of the chest
- Regular cough
- Irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Cracking and a very dry sound in lungs while breathing
- Wider fingers and toes
How Is Asbestosis Diagnosed?
Asbestosis diagnosis can be carried out by reviewing the person’s medical history, exposure history, and X-ray scan, which will review the lung’s tissue scarring. A breathing test will also be carried out; this will help your physician determine how deep the asbestosis is and the functionality of your lungs.
If you are experiencing difficulties in breathing and you have a history of asbestos exposure, it is time you should consult your primary doctor to determine the possibility of asbestosis. Your Primary doctor will refer you to a doctor specializing in lung problems (pulmonologist).
Your doctor should ask about your breathing condition during your appointment during resting and exercising. You will also be asked about your job history to know the period you were exposed to asbestos. Your doctor will order you to undergo a chest X-ray and breathing test. Other tests may be ordered for further analysis, like a lung function test (spirometry), CT scan, PET scan, or MRI.
To help your doctor to get helpful information, it is good your note down this information:
- When you started experiencing your symptoms
- The treatment you were given then you started experiencing the symptoms
- Your past job history, the time you spent in each job, and the nature of the job
- The product and equipment you used while working
- Smoking history
- Your old medical records like x-ray or CT scan
- lung function test.
The Prognosis for Asbestosis Patients
The prognosis for Asbestosis patients is not good. It takes 20 to 25 years after exposure to asbestos for symptoms to appear, and the disease becomes more evident in middle age. Over time, coughing and breathing difficulties worsen, as do chest pains due to heart involvement. The outlook worsens with time, and most people with asbestosis eventually die of a lung or heart condition brought on by long-term exposure to asbestos.
Many deaths have been recorded from this disease in the past two decades. However, through research and new medications, it has been discovered that there are chances of recovery from the diseases.
The treatment options available for asbestosis primarily depend on the degree of the disease and the patient’s condition. The treatment can be very complex and associated with COAD (Cardio-Pulmonary-Alveolar Disease).
Among the treatments are:
·Medications to relieve pain and breathing difficulties like oxygen therapy with a portable concentrator or oxygen tank.
·Pulmonary rehabilitation helps reduce shortness of breath and exercise tolerance and improve quality of life.
·Lung transplantation if other treatment options are not beneficial.
If you suffer from this disease, you should seek medical attention early. Working with a specialist will help hold the disease for a longer period and prevent further damage to the vital organs of your body.
Treatment for Asbestosis
The treatment for asbestosis is as follows:
Patients cannot gurgle with water due to a blocked air passage, which can be treated with inhalers (specifically inhaled steroid such as Flovent, Pulmicort or QVAR) that helps control the inflammation in the lungs.
The damaged tissues and scarring can serve as a breeding ground for infection. Therefore, patients have to take antibiotics before infections occur.
Patients with moderate to severe health problems caused by asbestosis are treated with oxygen therapy.
In very severe cases, patients are advised to undergo lung transplantation.
What Asbestosis Should Patients Know?
Asbestosis patients should be aware that prevention is better than cure. It is of great importance to take the necessary steps to prevent asbestosis. To combat this lung infection, it is vital to wear a dust mask and protective clothing to avoid high levels of exposure. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set safety standards and regulations for employees who work at asbestos businesses.
People exposed to high levels of asbestos are advised to wear a mask to secure their safety and demand that employers provide them with more protective gear.
Asbestosis Prevention and Control Program (ARPC) Asbestosis victims are encouraged to contact the Asbestosis Prevention and Control Program (ARPC). This program is an agency that provides information and counselling to those affected by asbestos disease.
Asbestosis is the most widespread occupational disease in the world. It is vital to take appropriate steps in preventing asbestosis. According to studies, the three best ways to avoid asbestosis are doing these:
- Avoid breathing in airborne asbestos fibers by using protective gear and dust masking.
- Minimizing dust exposure and use water and wetting agent in areas where high levels of asbestos exist
- Take adequate rest after engaging in work activity where high levels of asbestos are present.
Research + Resources
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works on the Asbestos National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) Program to prevent further deaths. The program requires large industries containing asbestos to monitor and reduce the airborne emission of asbestos into the environment.
The EPA plans to develop a new rule that will require periodic evaluation and updating of worker protection standards for asbestos. Establish exposure standards to limit workers’ exposures and require an ongoing assessment of products with asbestos to enable companies or industries to determine if they need to take any actions.
Asbestos-related diseases are very common in both men and women. The main reason is that they spend more time at work.
When we inhale asbestos fibers, it can cause inflammation and scarring of the lung tissues, leading to serious health complications. Asbestosis cause is directly linked to the length of exposure, with minimal exposure levels leading to minimal damage.
In contrast, high levels lead to rapid progression of the disease and sometimes death. The main asbestosis risk factor is the level/duration of exposure.
The risk for developing cancer begins at a very early age. Asbestosis is known to cause various types of cancers such as lung, colon, and esophagus, among others. Another fact is that people with asbestos-related diseases do not recover.
Asbestosis patients may experience shortness of breath during their activities and long rest periods. They will probably experience profuse sweating, especially after engaging in physical activities. Many other symptoms are associated with this disease; it is, therefore, advisable to take your time and seek medical attention immediately if you suspect that you might be affected by this illness.
Asbestosis is a severe and life-threatening condition. It can lead to death if it is not treated appropriately.
Can You Live with Asbestosis?
Asbestosis is a serious disease, and it can be fatal if not treated. The good news is that you can live with asbestosis and lead an everyday life with proper treatment. The best way to deal with this disease is by not smoking, modifying your diet, and exercising regularly. You should also avoid exposure to asbestos at work or home as much as possible.
People living with asbestosis should always consult their doctors before engaging in physical activity to avoid further complications.
The good news is that most patients do not need surgery or chemotherapy. They are only required to take medication and have treatment in the hospital for about a month or two for maximum results.
However, asbestosis can be cured if treated right.