Asbestosis, also known as diffuse pulmonary fibrosis or pneumoconiosis, is a medical condition caused primarily by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. The key elements of the disease are the scarring of lung tissue and an increased risk of developing malignant mesothelioma, cancer of the tissue separating internal organs. Asbestosis is generally considered a work-related disease and has been recognized as such in the United States since the 1930s. Symptoms of the disease may be mild or severe and debilitating.

Asbestosis Causes

Asbestosis is caused only by the inhalation and retention of asbestos fibers. Asbestos was once widely used as a form of insulation and in a variety of industrial, commercial and domestic products. Since the 1970s, asbestos has been regulated by the U.S. government, but a total ban on the use of asbestos has never been put into effect. Asbestos is still used today and is still present in many buildings and other older construction.

Asbestos is a natural mineral that occurs as a fiber. The fibers can be loose or densely packed together, depending on the particular type. It was mined extensively throughout the 20th century even though health risks, such as asbestosis, had been observed since the 1920s.

The risk of developing the disease is higher and the symptoms are often more severe if you have been exposed to large quantities of asbestos on a daily basis for long periods. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they become entrapped in the bronchial passages and cause irritation. The more fibers present in the lungs, the more irritation they can cause.

Asbestosis Symptoms

As with most asbestos-related medical conditions, you may not experience any symptoms until 10 to 40 years after the first incident of exposure. Symptoms may include one or more of the following:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Clubbing of the fingers or abnormal fingernail growth

In addition to these symptoms, the development of asbestosis increases your risk of developing mesothelioma and lung cancer, especially if you regularly smoke tobacco.

Asbestosis Diagnosis

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is recommended that you visit your doctor as soon as possible because many of these symptoms are identical to more severe diseases such as lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma. Only a professional diagnosis can determine the exact cause of your symptoms. You may visit your primary physician for the initial appointment, but you may be referred to a lung specialist.

During your initial visit, be prepared to answer a few questions about your medical history, work history and symptoms. Examples of such questions are:

  • How long have you been experiencing symptoms? Have they gotten worse?
  • Have you ever been exposed to asbestos? If so, how much and for how long?
  • Do you smoke?
  • What medications do you currently take?

If you have X-rays or medical records from another physician, you will want to provide those to your current physician to receive the most accurate diagnosis possible. Your doctor may use the old X-rays in a comparison with new X-rays.

In addition to a standard physical examination and X-rays, your doctor may order additional imaging tests, such as CT scans or an MRI. CT scans provide cross-sectional views of your body tissues, and may detect asbestosis that does not appear in X-rays.

Other diagnostic tests may include pulmonary function tests. Pulmonary function tests measure the capacity of your lungs and the air that flows through your lungs. You may also be given an oxygen saturation test that measures how much oxygen reaches your bloodstream with each breath.

Asbestosis Treatment

Asbestosis is a chronic condition with no known cure. Therefore, treatment is focused on relieving or reducing symptoms and preventing or delaying the disease’s progression. If you are experiencing shortness of breath or wheezing, you may be prescribed an asthma medication or an inhaler to aid in unrestricted breathing. In more severe cases, your doctor may order you to receive supplemental oxygen delivered through tubes placed under your nostrils. In the most severe cases, you may be put on a waiting list to receive a lung transplant.

Asbestosis Prevention

The most effective treatment for asbestosis is prevention. Prevention of asbestosis means limiting your exposure to asbestos. Those working with asbestos must use protective gear and undergo safety training as mandated by federal law in the United States. However, many older buildings built before the 1970s may contain asbestos without you being aware of it. For this reason, protective gear should also be used if you are remodeling such a home.

It is imperative that you contact an experienced asbestosis lawyer to assess your situation and prospective claim for compensation, and we encourage you to contact the offices of Goldberg & Osborne today. Simply call 1-800-THE-EAGLE (1-800-843-3245) or fill out our online case form for your free, no obligation evaluation. We work at no cost until we win or settle your case!

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Email us information about your potential claim, or give us a call 24/7 at 1-800-THE-EAGLE (1-800-843-3245) for a free, no obligation consultation.
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