A chronic inflammatory medical condition, asbestosis affects the parenchymal tissue of the lungs which progresses slowly but severely damages the lungs.
It is a scarring of the lung tissue which impairs the pulmonary or lung function causing breathing problems.
When asbestos is inhaled by a person, it reaches into the lungs in the alveoli or the air sacs where oxygen is transferred into blood. There, these asbestos fibers activate the lungs immune system and start an inflammatory reaction process. The white blood cells try to break down the asbestos and the inflammation process but they are unable to stop it which further results into other cells growing and forming connective–tissue–based scars. Eventually, the lungs are unable to deliver oxygen to the blood and remove carbon dioxide. It also leads to reduction of total lung capacity or TLC which leads to lung failure and other fatal outcomes in the long run.
Asbestosis occurs due to long term and heavy exposure to asbestos and is found largely among those people who worked in asbestos mines and mills or handle asbestos without any protective paraphernalia. These people are also at an increased risk for lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Once the asbestos particles are inhaled, the inflammatory process at the cellular level begins. Even after the asbestos exposure has ceased, this process goes on, prompted by the asbestos fibers which lie rooted in the lining of the lungs.
This process may continue over a number of years before any symptoms are noticed. The asbestosis symptoms may include:
It may take a period of 5-10 years for symptoms of asbestosis to appear.
There are various ways to treat asbestosis which help in reducing the symptoms and prevent further worsening of the patients’ condition. Any further contact with asbestos is prohibited during or after the treatment as it can aggravate the situation.
Bronchial drainage is recommended for patients suffering from asbestosis. In some cases, patients are also advised to use an ultrasonic mist humidifier which helps in loosing bronchial secretions so that they can be easily expelled by coughing. The doctor may also recommend respiratory therapists who can help in chest physical therapies to get rid of the secretions.
Other asbestosis symptoms like shortness of breath are treated with help of bronchodilators and inhaled or oral medicines which help in opening the bronchial tubes and open passage of air. This helps the patient in normal breathing. In more severe cases of shortness of breath, the patient may also be given supplemental oxygen from oxygen mask or ventilator.
Humidifiers and chest percussions are given to treat cough. In such cases, over the counter drugs like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can also be taken to reduce chest pain and relieve cough.
In advanced cases of asbestosis, one or more than one treatment options are considered, keeping in mind the patients’ conditions. Patients suffering from asbestosis possess a high risk of getting mesothelioma or asbestos lung cancer and other malignancies. Thus, while getting treatment for asbestosis, it should be kept in mind to avoid exposure to asbestos and other harmful agents which can cause any complications