What Is Asbestosis?
Asbestosis is a chronic (long-term) lung disease caused by exposure to asbestos, a fibrous and carcinogenic (cancer-causing) mineral.
While asbestosis is non-cancerous and cannot spread beyond the lungs, this asbestos-related disease is still serious and sometimes fatal.
Asbestosis causes thick, stiffened lung tissue, making breathing uncomfortable and sometimes nearly impossible. The damage to the lungs constricts them and makes it difficult for enough oxygen to circulate throughout the body.
Those who develop asbestosis also have an increased risk of developing asbestos lung cancer and mesothelioma. Thousands of innocent people are at risk of developing these serious conditions because as makers of asbestos-based products put profits above health and safety.
If you or a loved one have developed asbestosis, you may be eligible for financial compensation to help you pay for medical treatments and other expenses. We are here to help you. Get started with a free case review today.
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Causes and Risk Factors of Asbestosis
The only cause of asbestosis is exposure to asbestos fibers.
When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can settle in the alveoli, the tiny sacs in your lungs where oxygen replaces carbon dioxide in your blood, and cause damage.
The microscopic asbestos fibers cause irritation, inflammation, and irreversible scarring for decades. Since the body cannot remove or break down the fibers, the lung damage worsens, and asbestosis symptoms become harder to ignore.
There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Even one fiber can cause asbestosis and other severe health issues.
However, some people are at even greater risk of developing asbestosis if they were exposed to high levels of asbestos nearly every day through construction, mining, or other trade jobs.
Some high-risk asbestos occupations include:
- Construction worker
- Factory worker
- Firefighter and first responder
- Shipyard worker
- U.S. veterans, particularly those who served in the U.S. Navy
Additionally, secondhand asbestos exposure is possible for those who live with people working in high-risk asbestos occupations. This happens when asbestos fibers attach to the worker’s clothing that eventually releases into the air at home, putting families at risk of asbestos-related diseases.
What Are the Symptoms of Asbestosis?
The signs and symptoms of asbestosis often do not appear until 10-50 years after initial asbestos exposure. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and sometimes are mistaken for less serious conditions at first.
Common asbestosis symptoms may include:
- A dry, persistent cough
- Chest pain and tightness
- Crackling sounds when breathing
- “Clubbed” toes and fingernails from lack of oxygen
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble breathing
- Unintended weight loss from lack of appetite
Those who have been exposed to asbestos and who are experiencing these symptoms should talk with their doctor immediately. Catching symptoms early is crucial to receiving effective treatment and easing discomfort.
If you have been exposed to asbestos and you’re experiencing breathing problems, talk to your doctor. Make sure to tell them about your history of asbestos exposure and the possibility of asbestos-related diseases.
Your physician can refer you to a doctor specializing in lung problems (pulmonologist), who can perform a range of tests to confirm a diagnosis of asbestosis.
Tests to diagnose asbestosis may include:
- Chest X-ray
- Computerized tomography or CT scan
- Lung function tests or pulmonary function tests
Specialists may also recommend getting a biopsy to rule out asbestos-caused cancers. A biopsy allows the specialists to extract a small sample of fluid or tissue and look at it under a microscope to see if there are cancer cells present or not.
Doctors may misdiagnose asbestosis due to its similarities to other types of lung conditions, including interstitial fibrosis (thickened scarring of the lungs) or pleural diseases (which develop in the lung lining).
Doctors may also misdiagnose you with asbestosis when you actually have a more severe disease, such as lung cancer or malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that often affects the lining of the lungs (pleura) and is caused by asbestos.
As a result, you may not get the treatment you need until much later. If you believe you were misdiagnosed, talk to your care team. You may need to receive a second opinion from another pulmonologist.
Treatments for Asbestosis
Unfortunately, there is no cure for asbestosis, and patients must manage symptoms for the rest of their lives. However, there are treatment options for asbestosis that can help patients breathe easier and reduce their symptoms.
Doctors will always recommend that asbestosis patients quit tobacco use immediately. The smoke from cigarettes can worsen symptoms even while undergoing treatment or therapy.
Learn about asbestosis treatment options below.
Oxygen therapy provides the body with additional oxygen so breathing improves and organs can function better. Typically, patients must inhale the oxygen through a face mask or nasal prongs that are hooked up to an oxygen tank.
Oxygen therapy can be given at the hospital or at home. Talk with your doctor about the possibility of receiving oxygen therapy to help ease swelling and discomfort from low oxygen throughout the body.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a supervised medical program that helps lung disease patients breathe better. It can take place at a hospital, a small clinic, or at home.
During pulmonary rehabilitation, doctors can provide:
- Breathing tests to evaluate lung function
- Exercise stress tests to measure your heart rate, oxygen level, and blood pressure
- Timed walk tests to measure how far you can walk in a certain amount of time
Once the tests are complete, your team will create a customized pulmonary rehabilitation plan to help you breathe better.
Depending on your symptoms, your plan may include:
- Breathing techniques such as yoga breathing, pursed lip breathing, and breathing with computer-aided feedback
- Exercise training to strengthen your legs, back, and arms, and the muscles you use for breathing
- Nutritional counseling to help you keep your body healthy, manage stress on the heart and lungs, and ease pain
Lung Transplant Surgery
If asbestosis scarring is severe and other lung diseases or infections may be present, some care teams may suggest a lung transplant.
Most doctors will not recommend a lung transplant unless there are no other options. The transplant process is long and complicated, so it may not be suitable for many asbestosis patients, especially those who are in poor overall health.
Asbestosis Life Expectancy
Life expectancy varies by each asbestosis patient, but most live for 4 years or less, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. If asbestosis is affecting the lung lining, the patient is likely to not live past a year.
Talk to your care team to get a better understanding of your prognosis and life expectancy following an asbestosis diagnosis.
Compensation Options for People With Asbestosis
Asbestosis treatments can be expensive. Fortunately, there is help available.
For decades, asbestos product manufacturers put the health and safety of millions at risk so they could continue to profit off their products. They knew of the dangers of asbestos yet continued to hide its truth from the public.
Thankfully, those with asbestosis and other asbestos-related diseases can pursue financial compensation from these manufacturers. Learn how to access compensation below.
Asbestos Trust Fund Claims
When the dangers of asbestos became public knowledge, manufacturers faced thousands of lawsuits. Many filed for bankruptcy to avoid these lawsuits, but the courts required those that did to create asbestos trust funds. The purpose of these funds was to help support current and future victims of these companies’ negligence.
There is an estimated $30 billion in asbestos trust funds today.
Those exposed to asbestos who developed asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related diseases may be eligible to file claims. Family members of deceased asbestos victims may also file claims. Many mesothelioma patients begin receiving payouts from trust fund claims within 90 days.
Asbestosis victims and their family members can also file lawsuits against companies responsible for asbestos exposure to get financial aid. Lawsuit compensation can help pay for treatment and other expenses.
Family members of asbestosis patients who died from their illness can file wrongful death lawsuits. If the lawsuit is successful, the family may receive compensation for funeral expenses, medical bills, past pain and suffering, and lost income.
VA Benefits for Asbestosis
U.S. veterans were put at severe risk of developing asbestos-related diseases, since the military widely used asbestos between the 1930s and early 1980s, before the risks were widely known.
Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers various benefits for those impacted — including financial aid and medical treatment. Veterans can often receive thousands of dollars every month with their VA financial benefits.
Get Help from Experienced Asbestosis Lawyers
Receiving an asbestosis diagnosis may feel overwhelming, but Lung Cancer Group is here to help.
We can help connect you with trusted asbestos lawyers who will work hard to make the asbestosis lawsuit process as stress-free as possible. Your attorney will fight to get the maximum amount of compensation for your case.
Get a free case review today to see how we can help you.
FAQs about Asbestosis
What is asbestosis?
Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease. Its only cause is exposure to asbestos, and symptoms may not develop until 10-50 years after initial exposure.
It is also referred to as pulmonary fibrosis and is considered to be a type of pneumoconiosis (a broad group of diseases caused by inhaling different types of dust).
While asbestosis is not cancerous, it can increase the risk of more serious conditions and complications, including lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma.
What are the first signs of asbestosis?
The first signs of asbestosis vary from person to person. Additionally, many people may disregard symptoms because of their similarity to other, less serious conditions.
Common signs and symptoms of asbestosis include:
- Chest pain or tightness
- Large, rounded toenails and fingernails from lack of oxygen
- Persistent dry coughing
- Shortness of breath
Is asbestosis curable?
No, asbestosis cannot be cured. Once you inhale asbestos fibers, they will remain in your body.
However, treatments like oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation can improve your quality of life.
If your asbestosis worsens over time, contact your care team. They can help adjust your treatment options and help manage your symptoms.
Can you live with asbestosis?
Yes, many asbestosis patients have lived long and healthy lives. Treatments like oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation can greatly improve breathing function and quality of life.
What is the best treatment for asbestosis?
The best treatment for asbestosis varies from patient to patient. Asbestosis patients who only have breathing difficulties may only need to undergo pulmonary rehabilitation and oxygen therapy.
However, patients with other conditions, especially severe diseases like emphysema and lung cancer, may need to get lung transplant surgery.
Can I receive compensation through an asbestosis lawsuit or trust fund claims?
Yes, many people who were exposed to asbestos and later developed asbestosis or other serious asbestos-related diseases are eligible to pursue an asbestos lawsuit or file claims against asbestos trust funds.
Contact our team at (877) 446-5767 to see if we can help connect you with an asbestosis lawyer.