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Asbestosis: The Hidden Danger Inside Our Lungs

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral substance that is heat- and corrosion-resistant. In the past, it was widely used in items like insulation, cement, and certain floor tiles. Buildings once employed the fiber-like substance known as asbestos for flooring, roofing, and insulation. Since 1999, it has been completely prohibited in the UK and other parts of the globe. However, asbestos-containing material that has been shattered or smashed may emit a cloud of fine dust that includes asbestos.


Before the federal government began regulating the use of asbestos and asbestos-containing substances in the 1970s, the majority of people who developed asbestosis did so while at work, making it an occupational hazard. Its handling is now very closely monitored. If you abide by the safety regulations set forth by your workplace, developing asbestosis is quite rare. The management of asbestos materials should only be done by certified and educated personnel. Moreover, long-term exposure to asbestos fibers can lead to the deadly lung condition known as asbestosis. Despite the potential for risk, asbestos is safe if left alone.


Asbestos fibers reach the lungs by inhalation of dust and can, over time,  cause progressive lung damage. However, in order to develop asbestosis, you must have been exposed to asbestos fibers for an extended period of time, typically several years. Overall, the goal of treatment is to reduce your symptoms.


Causes and risks:


Prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers caused asbestosis. The dust and fibers that are in the air can get stuck in the alveoli, which are small air sacs at the end of the airways in the lung. where they irritate and scar the lung tissue. Considering that asbestosis is a progressive illness, the symptoms of the disease may not appear for as long as 20 years after exposure. By this point, the lung tissue has been severely damaged by the asbestos, rendering it rigid and incapable of expanding properly. whereas smoking can accelerate the disease's condition and enhance the amount of harm that asbestos causes.


People who worked in asbestos mining, milling, manufacturing, installation, or removal prior to the late 1970s are the most at risk of developing asbestosis. Due to strong rules in the US, getting asbestosis through work-related exposure is now considerably less likely. However, many employees in construction and several other industries continue to be at risk for serious occupational exposure, particularly when using outdated machinery or taking part in the demolition or refurbishment of older structures.


Moreover, many houses constructed before 1977 can have asbestos in pipes, popcorn ceilings, floor tiles, and other components. As long as the asbestos fibers are confined, it is safe, since exposure to asbestos that does not occur in an inhalable dust form does not cause asbestosis.




Inhaling asbestos fibers over a long period of time eventually results in lung scarring. The signs and symptoms of the disease include:

  • Difficulty in breathing 
  • Recurring cough
  • Wheezing
  • Severe weariness (Fatigue)
  • Discomfort in the shoulder or chest
  • A more severe condition will lead to, swollen fingertips


The onset of symptoms might take 20 to 30 years.


Speak with your doctor about the possibility of asbestosis if you have a history of asbestos exposure from work or other sources and are experiencing difficulty breathing or it is getting worse.




A persistent cough and difficulty breathing are common symptoms of asbestosis. In extreme circumstances, complications may even be fatal.


Asbestosis complications include the following:


  1. Lung cancer: Smokers with asbestosis are at increased risk for developing lung cancer.
  2. Malignant mesothelioma: Cancer that develops in the lining of your chest, abdomen, or lungs.
  3. Respiratory failure: results in a build-up of carbon dioxide in your tissues because your lungs are unable to deliver enough oxygen to your blood.
  4. Right-sided heart failure: Your heart's right side quits normal functioning.




To determine whether you suffer from asbestosis and also to eliminate the possibility of other diseases, your doctor will run a number of tests on you.


As part of a physical examination, your doctor will often start by using a stethoscope to listen for unusual breathing. Additionally, your doctor may request X-rays to check for a honeycomb pattern on your lungs.


The volume of air you can inhale and the airflow into and out of your lungs may both be assessed using pulmonary (lung) function tests.


The amount of oxygen that is transported from your lungs to your bloodstream may also be measured by your doctor. Your lungs may be thoroughly examined with CT scans.


In order to check for asbestos fibers in a lung tissue sample, your doctor may request that you get biopsy testing from pathology.




There is no treatment available for asbestosis. Thus, it is crucial to stop asbestos exposure. Drainage and chest percussion might help to eliminate fluids from the lungs and relieve the symptoms.


However, the doctor may administer aerosol medications to thin the lung fluids. People with this illness may require oxygen delivery through a mask. In worst-case scenarios, some of the patients may require a lung transplant.




A lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos particles (a group of minerals that take the form of tiny fibers). Coughing, difficulty breathing, and chest pain are all symptoms of scarring and permanent lung tissue damage.

Medanta Medical Team
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