What Causes Asbestosis?
Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease that is caused by the inhalation of dangerous asbestos fibers. It is characterized by shortness of breath, a consistent cough, chest pain or tightness, and loss of appetite or sudden weight loss.
Symptoms of asbestosis often don’t start appearing until decades after a person’s exposure to the dangerous mineral occurred. For this reason, discovering the cause of this illness can be difficult, although it is not impossible.
If you recently received a diagnosis of asbestosis, it is important to speak with an experienced asbestos litigation lawyer at The Law Offices of Michael P. Joyce, P.C., who can help you determine whether someone else’s negligence was responsible for your illness.
Contact us now for a free and confidential claim review and advice about your best legal options.
Cause of Asbestosis
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that can be extremely dangerous to a person’s health if he or she ingests or inhales its fibers. Unfortunately, before people knew about the full extent of the damage that inhaling this substance could cause, asbestos was commonly used in the manufacturing of cement, insulation, and other materials for many decades.
Once inhaled, these airborne fibers can become lodged in the tiny sacs located inside the lungs where the oxygen the bloodstream is exchanged for carbon dioxide. The resulting irritation and scarring of lung tissue interferes with the ability of oxygen to enter the bloodstream and causes the lungs themselves to become so stiff that they are unable to contract or expand in a normal way, making it difficult to breathe.
Certain individuals are especially at risk of becoming ill with asbestosis, namely those who worked in the mining, milling, and manufacturing industries, including:
- Asbestos miners
- Aircraft and vehicle mechanics
- Construction workers
- Railroad and shipyard workers
- Boiler operators
- Workers who removed asbestos insulation in older buildings
Many of the people who worked in these positions – especially in the 1950s and 1960s – were exposed to high levels of non-contained asbestos fibers and may have sustained permanent lung damage as a result.
The severity and exact nature of the kinds of symptoms that a person with asbestosis will suffer from depends on a number of different factors, including the age of the patient, whether the individual is a smoker, the stage of the disease, and the patient’s overall health.
According to the American Lung Association, most people who are diagnosed with asbestosis report that they suffer from a few specific symptoms, including:
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
- A persistent, dry cough
- Chest pain or tightness
- Clubbing of the toes and fingertips
- A crackling, dry sound while inhaling
- Nail deformities
People who were exposed to asbestos and who experience these types of symptoms could be suffering from undiagnosed asbestosis and should seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
Diagnosing asbestosis can be difficult, as many of its symptoms are characteristic of other diseases. For this reason, healthcare professionals perform several tests to rule out other conditions before confirming a diagnosis of asbestosis.
Diagnostic tests could include a physical examination, where a doctor listens to a person’s breathing for signs of abnormal patterns, as well as the use of x-rays and CT scans of the lungs and chest.
Pulmonary function tests, which can be used to measure the amount of air that a person can inhale, can also be helpful in diagnosing this illness. Testing a person’s blood to see how much oxygen is being transferred from the lungs to the bloodstream is another option. A doctor may also order a biopsy of a person’s lung tissue and then check the sample for asbestos fibers.
Although there is currently no treatment that can reverse the damage done by exposure to asbestos, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. There are a number of treatments that can be used to control or reduce the symptoms of this disease and slow down its progression.
Prescription inhalers, for example, can be used to loosen congestion in the lungs, while oxygen masks and tubes can help provide supplemental oxygen to patients who have particular difficulty breathing.
Some healthcare professionals also recommend that asbestosis patients take part in pulmonary rehabilitation. This is an exercise program that is specifically designed to help people suffering from chronic lung conditions. In especially severe cases, a patient may even require a lung transplant.
Patients are also strongly encouraged to avoid additional exposure to asbestos fibers and to refrain from smoking.
Asbestosis Life Expectancy
Asbestosis itself is not a deadly disease, but can make patients susceptible to other serious lung diseases. Asbestosis, for instance, can lead to malignant mesothelioma, which is a severe and deadly form of lung cancer.
Others may suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or could experience the buildup of excess fluids around the lungs, leading to pleural effusion.
It is possible for people who are diagnosed with the disease to survive for decades after diagnosis if they do not develop complications and are no longer exposed to asbestos.
Talk to an Asbestosis Lawyer Now
Exposure to asbestos can have devastating consequences not only for those who are directly exposed to the fibers, but to anyone who comes into contact with an individual who was exposed to asbestos. One of the consequences of this type of exposure is asbestosis, which can be both painful and debilitating and can even lead to more dangerous and deadly illnesses.
Workers and their family members, as well as consumers, could recover damages compensating them for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering from the company or organization responsible for the exposure.
Holding these large corporations accountable for their actions can be difficult. They are usually well funded and unwilling to admit any wrongdoing. An experienced asbestos litigation attorney can make all the difference in the outcome of an asbestosis case. If you or a loved one were recently diagnosed with asbestosis, please call The Law Offices of Michael P. Joyce, P.C., today for a free consultation about your legal options.