Asbestosis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Asbestosis pronounced is a chronic lung condition brought on by breathing in asbestos fibers. Breathlessness and lung tissue damage can result from prolonged exposure to these fibers. Mild to severe asbestosis symptoms can occur, and they typically don't show up for many years after the original exposure.

A heat- and corrosion-resistant natural mineral product is asbestos. In the past, it was widely utilized in materials for floor tiles, cement, and insulation.

Before the federal government began to regulate the use of asbestos and asbestos-containing goods in the 1970s, the majority of persons who have asbestosis contracted it while working. Today, handling of it is under stringent regulation. If you abide by your employer's safety regulations, you have a very minimal chance of developing asbestosis. The management of asbestos materials should only be done by certified and educated personnel. The goal of treatment is to reduce your symptoms.

Asbestosis: Causes

Some of the airborne fibers from prolonged exposure to high quantities of asbestos dust may lodge in your alveoli, the small sacs in your lungs where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide in your blood. The irritation and scarring caused by the asbestos fibers make the lung tissue inflexible. Breathing becomes challenging as a result.

Scarring of lung tissue increases as asbestosis worsens. Your lung tissue eventually stiffens to the point that it is unable to contract and expand correctly.

Smoking frequently causes the illness to advance more quickly and seems to enhance the retention of asbestos fibers in the lungs.

Asbestosis: Symptoms

In most cases, it takes 10–40 years after the initial exposure to asbestos before the symptoms of long-term exposure become apparent. The degree of symptoms might vary.

Some symptoms and indicators of asbestosis include −

  • Breathing difficulty

  • A continuous, dry cough

  • Chest discomfort or stiffness

  • When you breathe in, your lungs make dry and cracking noises.

  • Wider and rounder-than-normal finger and toe tips (clubbing)

Most persons with asbestosis today were exposed decades ago when there were reliable safeguards against occupational exposure to asbestos fibers.

If you experience the aforementioned symptoms and believe you may have previously been exposed to asbestos, consult your doctor.

Asbestosis: Risk Factors

The greatest risk of developing asbestosis is among those who worked in the mining, milling, manufacturing, installation, or removal of asbestos goods before the late 1970s. Examples comprise −

  • Aeronautical and automotive mechanics

  • Asbestos miners

  • Operator of boilers

  • Employees in the building industry

  • Electricians

  • Railroad personnel

  • Workers in mills and refineries

  • Shipyard personnel

  • Older buildings' steam pipes' asbestos insulation is being removed by workers.

The quantity and length of asbestos exposure are typically connected to the risk of asbestosis and the amount of lung damage.

Household members of exposed workers may be exposed secondhand because asbestos fibers can be transported home on garments. Asbestos fibers that are dispersed into the air may also be exposed to people who live close to mines.

Asbestosis: Diagnosis

A thorough medical history, exposure history, and a chest X-ray or CT scan that reveals lung tissue scarring is often used to diagnose asbestosis. Your doctor can assess the severity of your asbestosis and the health of your lungs using this information together with breathing tests.

If you have a history of asbestos exposure and you notice that your shortness of breath is getting worse, you should talk to your primary care physician about the likelihood of asbestosis. He or she will probably suggest that you visit a physician who focuses on lung conditions (pulmonologist).

Your doctor will inquire about your breathing during the appointment, both while you're at rest and when you're exercising. To ascertain the extent of your asbestos exposure, your doctor will also inquire in-depth about your employment history.

Therefore, it would be wise to get the following information ready in advance −

  • Your symptoms and when they first appeared

  • The remedies used in the past to treat the symptoms and how they worked

  • Your complete career's worth of work, the amount of time you spent at each employment, and the type of work you did.

  • The goods you came into touch with at work and whether you wore safety gear

  • Cigarette history

  • X-rays or CT scans from the chest as well as any previous medical records

Your doctor will examine your physical and listen to your lungs to establish whether or not the sounds are normal.

The following tests may then be prescribed by your doctor −

  • Lung function test

  • X-ray

  • CT scan of the chest

Imaging Exams

With these exams, your lungs are visualized −

  • A chest X-ray − Your lung tissue will become excessively white if you have advanced asbestosis. In these cases, it will give a honeycomb appearance.

  • CT scan for computerized tomography − Cross-sectional pictures of the bones and soft tissues within your body are created by combining a number of X-ray views acquired from various angles during a CT scan. These scans often offer more information and may be able to identify asbestosis early on, even before it manifests on a chest X-ray.

  • Testing for pulmonary function − Your lungs' efficiency is assessed with pulmonary function testing. These exams check your lungs' capacity to store air as well as airflow.

Asbestosis: Treatment

Asbestos damage cannot be repaired, however, there are actions that may be taken to lessen symptoms and reduce the disease's course. Avoiding more asbestos exposure as well as other irritants like cigarette smoke will help prevent the illness from worsening.

To treat asbestosis, your doctor could suggest the following −

  • Kicking the habit as soon as you can. Smoking can exacerbate the harm caused by asbestos and quicken the disease's course. The American Lung Association provides a variety of smoking cessation programs to provide the help smokers who are attempting to stop require.

  • You could be given oxygen as a prescription to assist you to breathe in more air. Through a tube that goes into the nostrils or with the use of a mask, oxygen is delivered from a tank to the user. Study up on oxygen treatment.

  • An exercise program called "pulmonary rehabilitation" was created to support all patients with chronic lung problems in maintaining their ideal levels of activity.

  • Your doctor may advise surgery and send you to a lung transplant expert in cases of extreme severity.

Your doctor can advise medication and breathing exercises to treat your breathing issues and keep your lungs in good condition.

Asbestosis: Prevention

The best way to avoid asbestosis is to limit your exposure to asbestos. Federal law mandates that employers in construction and other businesses that operate with asbestos materials take extra precautions.

Many houses, schools, and other structures constructed before to the 1970s include asbestos-containing materials like pipes and floor tiles. In general, as long as the asbestos remains contained and unaltered, there is little risk of exposure. There is a risk of asbestos fibers being discharged into the air and inhaled when asbestos-containing products are broken. Always have certified and skilled asbestos specialists examine, fix, or remove your asbestoscontaining goods.


Asbestos is one of the most common avoidable hazards to the human lung. Although its association with a number of malignant and non-malignant lung diseases has been long ago established, novel aspects regarding the pathogenesis of these disorders are still coming to light.

Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha
Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha