What is Asbestosis and What Causes It?

Asbestos is found in various sizes and shapes around the world. It is one of the naturally occurring silica compounds. Although it isn’t the same as the silica you’ll find as components of computer chips and window glass, it is similar.

The three most common types of asbestos are white asbestos (chrysotile), brown asbestos (armosite) and blue asbestos (corcidolite). All three of these silica have been associated with lung diseases – both non-cancerous as well as cancerous.

What is Asbestos Used For?

Asbestos had been a very popular fire retardant and building insulation material for many years. Although it has fallen out of favor because of the diseases that it causes it can still be found in the furnaces, pipes, roof shingles, coating materials, millboard, floor tiles, and textured paints in older homes.

What is Asbestosis?

When people are exposed to asbestos and inhale it three different types of lung diseases can develop: 1) asbestosis; 2) lung cancer; and 3) disease of the pleura – the lining of the lung.

Asbestosis is the process that happens as lung tissue is scarred by the jagged edges of asbestos fibers. Before a doctor determines that a patient has pulmonary fibrosis (lung scarring) due to asbestos, many other diseases that could also cause lung scarring have to be eliminated.

Patients with specific x-ray or biopsy results also have to have had a past history of asbestos exposure in their history before a physician would consider diagnosing their disease as asbestosis.

It also appears that smoking increases the rate of progression of the disease. This may be because smoking could prevent the inhaled fibers from being efficiently eliminated from the airways.

What are the Symptoms of Asbestosis?

Clinical symptoms of asbestosis often include a cough along with a shortness of breath that has slowly progressed over time. As the disease advances breathlessness increases. If a person is a smoker, then sputum (coughing up mucus) and wheezing are also quite common symptoms.

Most instances of asbestosis become evident between twenty to forty years after a person’s initial exposure to asbestos. However, if workers had been exposed to very high concentrations of asbestos fibers then their symptoms could develop in as little as ten years.

Other indications of asbestosis include cyanosis, which is a blue tinge on the fingers; abnormal sounding lungs; clubbing, which change the shapes of the toes and fingers; and cor pulmonale, which is a failure on the right side of a person’s heart.

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