Asbestos fibersin the lungs cause a scarring and thickening of the
lung tissue, and continuous exposure may cause serious health problems
and even death. Asbestosis is a condition typified by chronic
inflammation and fibrosis on the lung tissuecaused by the inhalation of
asbestos fibres in to the lungs. The condition usually does not show
symptoms immediately after exposure, but may take several decades to
People with long-term exposure to asbestos are at risk of
asbestosis, along with asbestos related cancer such as lung cancer or
mesothelioma. Many cases of asbestosis develop in patients with a
history of repeated occupational exposure to airborne asbestos fibres.
Since the harmful effects of asbestos have been widely known, the
government has put a number of regulations in place to ensure that
people have far less exposure today than in the past. In particular,
blue, brown and white asbestos are banned substances. Those looking to
work with asbestos already present in buildings are required to obtain a licence and complete training.
Protective equipment is also used to limit the number of asbestos
fibres that make it into the lungs. Nevertheless, new cases continue to
emerge among persons who had asbestose exposure in the course of their
work before the implementation of stricter regulations in the 1970s.
People who have had long-term exposure to asbestos and who are
constantly experiencing breathing problems should consult a physician
and the physician should be aware of asbestos exposure. In general, the
symptoms of asbestosis include difficulty breathing because of the
stiffness of the lungs, coughing and chest pain. In some cases the
asbestosis victim's fingers get thicker in a process called clubbing.
A doctor can carry out various tests to identify the presence of an
asbestos cancer related condition. Pulmonary function tests give the
doctor a measure of how efficiently and effectively the lungs work.
What the doctor looks for includes the volume capacity of the lungs,
how the lungs move air and how the lungs are able to exchange oxygen
and carbon dioxide. When the diagnosis of asbestosis is complete, your
doctor will decide the appropriate treatment. Although there is no cure
for asbestosis, various treatments exist to reduce symptoms. In less
severe cases, the doctor may put the patient on oxygen to relieve
shortness of breath. Medication (particularly bronchodilators and
theophyllines) is usually used to relax the muscles in the lungs,
making the unaided inhalation of oxygen easier. In addition, the
patient will be vaccinated against conditions such as flu. Asbestos
entails an increased level of susceptibility to such conditions.