What is asbestosis?
Asbestos is a mineral fiber used in construction materials. Asbestosis is scarring of your lungs caused by breathing in asbestos dust.
Most people have a very low chance of getting asbestosis unless they work with asbestos a lot
Asbestosis causes thickening of the membranes that cover your lungs (pleura)
Asbestos exposure also increases the risk of lung cancer, particularly the kind called mesothelioma Mesothelioma Mesothelioma is cancer of the thin, transparent, two-layered membrane that covers and lines the inside of the chest wall and abdomen. The most common symptoms are persistent chest pain and shortness... read more , mainly if you smoke
People with asbestosis have trouble breathing and exercising
Doctors diagnose asbestosis using chest x-rays Plain X-Rays A plain x-ray is an imaging test that takes a picture of the inside of your body. It uses a low dose of x-ray radiation. X-rays show body parts according to how dense (solid) they are. Doctors... read more and CT (computed tomography) scans Computed Tomography A CT scan uses a large machine shaped like a large donut to take x-rays from many angles. A computer then takes the x-rays and creates many detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Each... read more
Doctors treat asbestosis by giving you oxygen and medicines to make breathing easier
What causes asbestosis?
Breathing in asbestos dust causes asbestosis. When inhaled, the asbestos dust sits deep in your lungs and causes scars.
The more you come in contact with asbestos, the more likely you’ll get asbestosis. If you aren’t in contact with asbestos at your job, you have a very low chance of getting asbestosis. People who work with asbestos a lot have the highest chance of asbestosis, for example, people who tear down buildings and miners who dig up minerals that contain asbestos.
What are the symptoms of asbestosis?
Symptoms appear slowly and only after large parts of your lungs have become scarred.
Early symptoms can include:
Feeling short of breath
Trouble being active or exercising
Coughing and wheezing if you smoke cigarettes or have chronic bronchitis Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) COPD is a disease in your lungs that makes it hard to breathe. It's hard to push air out of your lungs. Difficulty pushing air out is called chronic airflow obstruction. Smoking cigarettes is... read more
Later symptoms can include:
More trouble breathing
Finger clubbing (when the tips of your fingers or toes get bigger, and the angle of your nails gets larger)
Heart failure Heart Failure Your heart pumps blood to carry oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body. Heart failure is when your heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. It doesn’t mean your heart has stopped... read more (your heart doesn’t pump blood well to the rest of your body)
How can doctors tell if I have asbestosis?
Doctors check for asbestosis if you were exposed to asbestos at work. They may do:
Sometimes a lung biopsy (taking a piece of the lung or pleural tissue to look at under a microscope)
How do doctors treat asbestosis?
There's no cure for asbestosis. Doctors treat symptoms with:
Behavior changes, such as eating less salt and losing weight to ease heart failure Heart Failure Your heart pumps blood to carry oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body. Heart failure is when your heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. It doesn’t mean your heart has stopped... read more
Pulmonary rehabilitation (a breathing program to help you learn how to live with long-term lung disease)
Lung transplant (surgery to remove a failing lung and replace it with a healthy one from a donor), if no other treatments work
How can I prevent asbestosis?
If there’s asbestos in your home or workplace, it’s only a concern if your home is undergoing asbestos removal or if you're moving or updating (renovating) your home. Make sure the asbestos is handled by people who are trained to remove asbestos.
If you smoke and have been in contact with asbestos, you can reduce your risk of lung cancer by giving up smoking Smoking Cessation Most people who smoke want to quit and have tried doing so with limited success. Effective tools to help quit smoking include counseling, nicotine replacement products, and medications. While... read more .
If you have asbestosis, you can help prevent getting lung infections by getting a pneumonia Pneumococcal Vaccine Pneumococcal vaccines help protect against bacterial infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococci). Pneumococcal infections include ear infections, sinusitis, pneumonia... read more and flu vaccine Influenza Vaccine The influenza virus vaccine helps protect against influenza. Two types of influenza virus, type A and type B, regularly cause seasonal epidemics of influenza in the United States. There are... read more .