Asbestosis is a breathing disorder caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. Long-term or heavy exposure to asbestos can lead to scarring of lung tissue (called fibrosis), which causes the lungs to become stiff. When the lungs are scarred, they do not expand and contract as they should, leading to shortness of breath and the inability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. Asbestosis can range from mild to severe, depending on the amount of asbestos an individual was exposed to as well as the time frame of exposure.
Asbestosis symptoms are similar to other breathing conditions, such as asthma. However, unlike asthma, the effects of this condition may develop over a longer period of time, up to several years. The resulting symptoms include a shortness of breath that worsens over time, a decreased tolerance for physical activity, chest pain and tightness in the chest. It also may cause finger clubbing, a deformity that causes swelling of the tissue around the nail and a change in the fingernail angle. Alternatively, patients may experience almost no symptoms.
In addition, asbestosis may lead to other health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart problems, lung cancer, fluid buildup and changes in the membranes covering the lungs. It may also result in other forms of cancer, such as malignant mesothelioma.
If you have experienced symptoms of asbestosis and your doctor hears a crackling sound in your chest, your doctor may perform diagnostic tests to determine whether you have asbestosis. These tests include chest X-rays, CAT scans of the lungs or pulmonary function tests, such as blowing into an instrument called a spirometer.
Inhalers and medications like bronchodilators, aspirin and antibiotics are common prescriptions for Asbestosis. If there is severe chest congestion and breathing difficulty, humidifier, oxygen therapy, chest percussion or postural drainage may also be recommended. If medications doesn’t work, doctor recommend surgery to remove the scar tissues.