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Condition

Asbestosis

Symptoms, Doctors, Treatments, Research & More

Condition 101

What is the definition of Asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a lung disease that occurs from breathing in asbestos fibers.

What are the alternative names for Asbestosis?

Pulmonary fibrosis - from asbestos exposure; Interstitial pneumonitis - from asbestos exposure

What are the causes for Asbestosis?

Breathing in asbestos fibers can cause scar tissue (fibrosis) to form inside the lung. Scarred lung tissue does not expand and contract normally.

How severe the disease is depends on how long the person was exposed to asbestos and the amount that was breathed in and the type of fibers breathed in. Often, the symptoms aren't noticed for 20 years or more after the asbestos exposure.

Asbestos fibers were commonly used in construction before 1975. Asbestos exposure occurred in asbestos mining and milling, construction, fireproofing, and other industries. Families of asbestos workers can also be exposed from particles brought home on the worker's clothing.

Other asbestos-related diseases include:

  • Pleural plaques (calcification)
  • Malignant mesothelioma (cancer of the pleura, the lining of the lung), which can develop 20 to 40 years after exposure
  • Pleural effusion, which is a collection that develops around the lung a few years after asbestos exposure and is benign
  • Lung cancer

Workers today are less likely to get asbestos-related diseases because of government regulations.

Cigarette smoking increases the risk of developing asbestos-related diseases.

What are the symptoms for Asbestosis?

Symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath with activity (slowly gets worse over time)
  • Tightness in the chest

Possible other symptoms include:

  • Clubbing of fingers
  • Nail abnormalities

What are the current treatments for Asbestosis?

There is no cure. Stopping exposure to asbestos is essential. To ease symptoms, drainage and chest percussion can help remove fluids from the lungs.

The doctor may prescribe aerosol medicines to thin lung fluids. People with this condition may need to receive oxygen by mask or by a plastic piece that fits into the nostrils. Certain people may need a lung transplant.

What are the support groups for Asbestosis?

You can ease the stress of this illness by joining a lung support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.

These resources can provide more information on asbestosis:

  • American Lung Association -- www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/asbestosis
  • The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization -- www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org
  • United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration -- www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Asbestosis?

Outcome depends on the amount of asbestos you were exposed to and how long you were exposed.

People who develop malignant mesothelioma tend to have a poor outcome.

When should I contact a medical professional for Asbestosis?

Call your provider if you suspect that you have been exposed to asbestos and you have breathing problems. Having asbestosis makes it easier for you to develop lung infections. Talk to your provider about getting the flu and pneumonia vaccines.

If you've been diagnosed with asbestosis, call your provider right away if you develop a cough, shortness of breath, fever, or other signs of a lung infection, especially if you think you have the flu. Since your lungs are already damaged, it's very important to have the infection treated right away. This will prevent breathing problems from becoming severe, as well as further damage to your lungs.

How do I prevent Asbestosis?

In people who have been exposed to asbestos for more than 10 years, screening with a chest x-ray every 3 to 5 years may detect asbestos-related diseases early. Stopping cigarette smoking can greatly reduce the risk of asbestos-related lung cancer.

REFERENCES

Cowie RL, Becklake MR. Pneumoconioses. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 73.

Tarlo SM. Occupational lung disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 87.

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Latest Research

There is no recent research available for this condition. Please check back because thousands of new papers are published every week and we strive to find and display the most recent relevant research as soon as it is available.

Clinical Trials

Clinical Trial
Drug
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Study Type: Drug
  • Participants: 20
  • Start Date: November 5, 2019
Investigation of the Anti-Cancer Activity of Artichoke Extract in an Asbestos-Exposed Population (The ABOCA Phase II Trial)