What is Asbestosis?
Asbestosis is a chronic fibrotic interstitial lung disease which is asbestos-induced. Unlike mesothelioma it is a non-cancerous condition, however sufferers may run the risk of developing mesothelioma in the future. Fibrosis is a scarring of the lung. Interstitial refers to the lung tissue itself. In asbestosis it is the lung tissue, not the airways, that is damaged. The scarring results from asbestos fibres penetrating the lung tissue and causing inflammation. When this process continues then further scarring results.
Symptoms of Asbestosis
The alveoli (air sacks), where oxygen exchange occurs and oxygen diffuses into the blood stream, become scarred, damaged and obliterated. The scarring or fibrotic change within the’ lung tissue causes the lungs to be stiff and hence it is more difficult to breathe and may be similar to other respiratory diseases. The lung becomes very inelastic; hence the lung does not exchange oxygen and C02 adequately because eventually the alveolar gas exchange units are markedly reduced in number and function. Dyspnoea or shortness of breath on exertion is one of the symptoms of asbestosis.
Fibrotic changes in the lungs can be associated with various causes other than asbestos such as silica dust, animal dust exposure, rheumatoid arthritis and many other causes. Exposure to silica dust, for instance arising from excavation work in rock with high silica content, can cause silicosis. Exposure to dusts from various birds can cause a fibrotic condition in the lung known as “birds fanciers’ lung”.
However, asbestosis refers exclusively to asbestos-induced fibrosis of the lung. Asbestosis is usually diffuse in that it is usually found throughout the lower sections of both of the lungs, and not isolated. The fibrosis associated with asbestosis is often roughly equal in both lungs. As the disease progresses, the upper lobes may be affected. Sufferers may run the risk of developing mesothelioma in the future.
If you are suffering from asbestosis, it is important to have a specialist doctor manage your treatment who is experienced in such cases. As the right treatment methods such as medication, nutrition as well as exercise if appropriate can improve the quality of life in a great deal.