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Asbestosis: Scarring of the Lungs Caused by Asbestos



Asbestosis, as the name implies, is a respiratory disease caused by inhalation of asbestos fibers which then causes permanent, irreversible scarring of the lung tissues.  Exposure to asbestos is the cause of asbestosis.  When microscopic fibers are inhaled, they become lodged in the alveoli (tiny membrane sacs inside your lungs) and scar the surrounding tissue.  As the disease progresses, the lung tissue hardens so that the lungs cannot expand and contract as normal, interfering with the ability to then deliver oxygen to the blood.

Symptoms of Asbestosis

Once the tissues are scarred, the lungs cannot expand and contract, causing symptoms of chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest.  More rare symptoms can include nail and finger abnormalities.    Often signs of asbestosis, like those of mesothelioma (another disease related to asbestos exposure) do not appear until 10 to 50 years after initial exposure.  Asbestosis symptoms can range from mild to severe, and worsen as the disease progresses.

Who’s At Risk? 

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, was commonly added to construction, industrial and domestic products prior to the mid 1980’s when federal regulations became enforced.  Therefore anyone working in the following fields runs a higher risk of past exposure to asbestos:

  • mining,
  • milling,
  • construction,
  • fireproofing,
  • automobile, air or ship repair,
  • electricians,
  • shipyard workers,
  • veterans, especially of the Navy,
  • boiler operators,
  • railroad workers,
  • maintenance and repair workers

Any family member of someone who worked around asbestos is also at risk of exposure as fibers could be carried home on clothing, hair or shoes. 

Screening & Exams for Asbestosis

If you have a known history of exposure to history and begin to experience any symptoms or either asbestosis or mesothelioma, consult with your doctor immediately.  The most common diagnostic tests for asbestosis are:

  • Chest x-ray – reveals excessive whiteness on the lung tissue
  • CT Scan of the lungs – provides greater detail and cross-sectional images of the tissue surrounding the lungs, detecting signs of asbestosis before a Chest x-ray could.
  • Gallium lung scan – identifies inflammation in the lungs by use of nuclear scan
  • Pulmonary function tests – tests the performance of your lungs, airflow in and out, transference of oxygen to bloodstream 

Treatment of Asbestosis

Despite ongoing research and clinical trials, to date there is no known cure for asbestosis.  The only way to prevent the disease is to avoid all exposure to asbestos.  The only treatment is palliative not curative, with the goal of slowing progression, easing symptoms and improving quality of life. 

The most common treatments are:

  • Medications – aerosol medications similar to inhalers used by those suffering from asthma
  • Oxygen therapy – by mask or thin plastic tubing that fits into the nostrils
  • Postural drainage, chest percussion and vibration – all to relieve shortness of breath caused by pleural fluid build up

Your Legal Rights

If you have been exposed to asbestos and are diagnosed with asbestosis, you have a legal right to pursue compensation for your injuries.  Contact one of our asbestos attorneys for a free case evaluation today.    We have been specializing in asbestos lawsuits for more than 30 years, winning millions of dollars for our clients who have been affected by asbestosis and mesothelioma.