Asbestosis Mesothelioma Information and Resource Guide

Asbestosis Information

    Asbestosis is a lung condition, often referred to as a "diffuse pulmonary fibrosis" which results from the inhalation of asbestos fibers. It is one of a number of diseases categorized as occupational lung disease or environmental lung disease. A unique aspect of asbestosis that distinguishes it from other fibrotic diseases (such as silicosis) is the presence of asbestos bodies and fibers in the lung tissue. Additionally, asbestos bodies and fibers have been detected in small numbers beyond the lung: in tonsils, thoracic and abdominal lymph nodes, pleura, peritoneum, liver, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, small and large intestines, esophagus and stomach.
    Typically, asbestos particles are inhaled into the lungs by exposed individuals in large quantities. The body's defense mechanisms respond to asbestos fibers by attacking them, which forms the characteristic fibrosis which can often be detected with an x-ray or CT Scan. Asbestosis is a disease process which is progressive and irreversible in nature. It typically leads to subsequent respiratory disability. In the most severe cases, asbestosis may lead to death from pulmonary hypertension and cardiac failure.
    Asbestosis is generally considered to be a restrictive lung disease. The fibrosis which forms reduces the lung's ability to expand and exchange oxygen (distensibility). This "stiff lung" condition reduces all volumes and capacities of the lungs. A person with asbestosis tends to breathe more rapidly as a compensatory reaction to his or her diminished lung capacity.
What are the Clinical Signs of Asbestosis?
Clinical presentation of this disease may include the following:
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
    -rarely occurs before a decade of exposure
    -appears first only upon exertion and subsequently occurs at rest
  • Dry cough
    -dry and troublesome cough, perhaps associated with chest pain
  • X-Ray changes
    -generally beginning with irregular opacities at the bases of the lungs, perhaps extending into the upper zones gradually
  • Pulmonary function deficiencies
    -typically a pulmonary function test reveals a restrictive lung disease pattern
    -there may be a pulmonary function loss before x-ray changes become evident

Other more advanced symptoms of this disease include clubbing of the fingers (increased thickness of the digits and curvature of the nails) and cor pulmonale. Medical monitoring for radiologic changes is key, as persons with asbestosis have an increased risk of developing a malignancy.
Where Do I Go From Here?     After diagnosis, it is important to understand your treatment options. Your doctor will provide you with information on the treatments that are available to you. Medical monitoring is extremely important, for there is an increased risk of malignancy. Periodic chest x-rays will allow your doctor to observe whether any radiologic changes are taking place.
    It is also important to know about your legal rights. If you have asbestosis, or any other asbestos-related disease, you were exposed to asbestos. Many of the manufacturers of asbestos insulation products knew for decades that asbestos was hazardous, yet made a business decision not to warn people of those hazards. As a result, you may have a right of recovery against those manufacturers, which can help defray the costs of treatment and provide compensation for your pain and suffering.
    For information on the legal implications of asbestosis and other asbestos-related diseases, please visit our Know Your Rights section.
    For general information on available treatments, please visit our Treatment Options section.
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