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Asbestosis is the scarring of the spongy part of the lung. It stiffens the lungs and make them less able to transfer oxygen. The immediate effect is breathlessness usually with exertion, but later, even minimal amount of exercise can cause breathlessness. The disease tends to progress and sever causes result in death from respiratory failure.

What is asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a type of interstitial lung disease or pulmonary fibrosis. The condition causes fibrosis, or scarring of the lung tissue. The scarring is caused by asbestos fibres that penetrate into the lung tissue, causing inflammation and irritation and subsequent scarring.  The scarring can continue for many years after exposure to asbestos has ceased.

Symptoms of asbestosis

The scarring that asbestosis causes in the lung creates a stiffening of the lung, making it more difficult to breathe. The lungs contract and reduce in size significantly impacting on lung function.  Shortness of breath is the primary symptom associated with asbestosis, but sufferers can also experience a chronic cough.

Asbestosis comes in varying degrees. Some sufferers of asbestosis may have very few symptoms, or not even know they are suffering from the disease. Others will suffer from severe shortness of breath and require oxygen, which may lead to other complications such as respiratory failure.

Interstitial lung disease or pulmonary fibrosis can have numerous causes. Some other causes include rheumatoid arthritis or exposure to birds.  In order to diagnose asbestosis the cause of the fibrosis must be identified as asbestos.  An indicator of previous asbestos exposure often seen with asbestosis is the presence of pleural plaques, a scarring of the lining of the lung (the pleura).

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