Asbestosis is a lung disease associated with one's exposure to asbestos products. As researchers at Creighton's School of Medicine have stated, "asbestosis is a fibrosis or scarring of the lung tissue."
Asbestos is a useful, heat retardant product that is made from fibrous materials raked from mines throughout the world. Asbestos, though useful, poses serious medical risks to anyone exposed to it. Individuals who suffer from asbestosis are five times more likely, according to Creighton researchers, to develop tumors or cancer of the lung than those not exposed to asbestos.
In general, the nose and bronchi act as filters and stop many particles from entering the lungs. Asbestos fibers, however, are long, thin, and microscopic. They easily slip through the filters and enter the lungs, where problems begin. Researchers state that asbestosis is most often found in people who are often exposed to this dangerous material. This group includes auto mechanics, shipyard workers, electricians and other building tradesmen.
Asbestosis symptoms can appear quite awhile after the exposure. In many cases symptoms do not appear until 10 years later, and it is not rare to find the symptoms appearing 20 years after the exposure. According to researchers, common symptoms of asbestosis are:
- shortness of breath
- persistent and productive cough
- distressing spasms
- chest pain or tightness
- a loss of appetite
There is no cure for asbestosis at this time. The disease tends to progress with age and the condition rarely improves or goes away. Respiratory treatments can be used to remove buildups in the lungs. Humidifiers are also found to be helpful for easing coughs and other discomfort.
Smokers who acquire asbestosis are advised to quit smoking immediately. If not, the combination of asbestosis combined with smoke inhalation can prove even more toxic and cause the asbestosis to reach advanced stages rapidly. A person who has asbestosis and who smokes, according to researchers, is 55 times more likely to develop cancer than a non-smoker who does not suffer from asbestosis.