Asbestos fibersin the lungs cause a scarring and thickening of the lung tissue, and continuous exposure may cause serious health problems and even death. Asbestosis is a condition typified by chronic inflammation and fibrosis on the lung tissuecaused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres in to the lungs. The condition usually does not show symptoms immediately after exposure, but may take several decades to develop.
People with long-term exposure to asbestos are at risk of asbestosis, along with asbestos related cancer such as lung cancer or mesothelioma. Many cases of asbestosis develop in patients with a history of repeated occupational exposure to airborne asbestos fibres. Since the harmful effects of asbestos have been widely known, the government has put a number of regulations in place to ensure that people have far less exposure today than in the past. In particular, blue, brown and white asbestos are banned substances. Those looking to work with asbestos already present in buildings are required to obtain a licence and complete training.
Protective equipment is also used to limit the number of asbestos fibres that make it into the lungs. Nevertheless, new cases continue to emerge among persons who had asbestose exposure in the course of their work before the implementation of stricter regulations in the 1970s. People who have had long-term exposure to asbestos and who are constantly experiencing breathing problems should consult a physician and the physician should be aware of asbestos exposure. In general, the symptoms of asbestosis include difficulty breathing because of the stiffness of the lungs, coughing and chest pain. In some cases the asbestosis victim's fingers get thicker in a process called clubbing.
A doctor can carry out various tests to identify the presence of an asbestos cancer related condition. Pulmonary function tests give the doctor a measure of how efficiently and effectively the lungs work. What the doctor looks for includes the volume capacity of the lungs, how the lungs move air and how the lungs are able to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. When the diagnosis of asbestosis is complete, your doctor will decide the appropriate treatment. Although there is no cure for asbestosis, various treatments exist to reduce symptoms. In less severe cases, the doctor may put the patient on oxygen to relieve shortness of breath. Medication (particularly bronchodilators and theophyllines) is usually used to relax the muscles in the lungs, making the unaided inhalation of oxygen easier. In addition, the patient will be vaccinated against conditions such as flu. Asbestos entails an increased level of susceptibility to such conditions.