1 What is Asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos fiber. Inhaling asbestos fibers cause scarring of lung tissue, leading to complications in breathing. Symptoms that range from mild to severe, appear only after prolonged exposure. 

People live with disease for several years. But, as the condition progresses, enhanced treatment may be required as they age. The most common symptom of asbestosis is shortness of breath even during routine tasks. 

Chest pain and coughing are also seen as symptoms of the condition. Medications and breathing treatments are used to treat the condition. Asbestos was used extensively in many products like cement, floor tiles, and insulation. 

Most of the people suffering from asbestosis had prolonged exposure to fibers in their workplace. The use of asbestos is strictly regulated with many safety precautions in place while handling the material.

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2 Symptoms

Some common symptoms of asbestosis are: 

In the initial stages, shortness of breath is felt only after some strenuous physical activity. As the condition progresses, this symptom becomes a persistent problem that requires treatment. 

Symptoms usually appear 10-40 years after the exposure to asbestos. In very severe conditions, the finger tips may become wider and rounder like a club. 

3 Causes

Asbestosis is caused by prolonged exposure to high levels of asbestos dust. Some of the fibers from the material accumulate in the alveoli of the lungs. 

These fibers irritate the lung tissue, leading to scarring, thickening, and stiffening of lungs. Shortness of breath is caused by these changes in the organ. Scarring progresses with the condition, eventually affecting the functioning of the lungs. 

Smoking increases the ability of the tissue to retain the fibers and thus enhances the progress of the condition. 

It is most commonly seen in people working in mining, milling, manufacturing, installation, and removal of asbestos. It was more prevalent in the 1970’s when the industry was not regulated. 

Some of the people who are more likely to develop asbestosis include: 

  • Electricians
  • Asbestos miners
  • Aircraft and auto mechanics
  • Construction workers
  • Shipyard workers
  • Boiler operators
  • Railroad workers

The risk increases when the fibers, chips, and pieces are airborne. 

4 Making a Diagnosis

Signs and symptoms of Asbestosis resemble that of many other respiratory diseases, making it hard to diagnose. Confirmatory diagnosis depends on different tests and images. 

Chest x-ray reveals the presence of asbestos accumulation in the image. In severe form of asbestosis, entire lungs have the appearance of a honey comb. CT scan produces a detailed image of the soft tissues in lungs. 

It is useful in detecting asbestosis in the earlier stages. Pulmonary function tests are used to assess the functioning of lungs. In this procedure, the amount of air taken in, thrown out, and retained in lungs are measured. 

It also measures the amount of oxygen that is transferred to the blood stream from the lungs.

5 Treatment

Treatment helps to slow down the progression of Asbestosis and also to alleviate the symptoms. Damage caused by asbestosis is permanent.

Supplemental oxygen or oxygen therapy is recommended to ease breathing. Lung transplantation is suggested for patients with severe symptoms of asbestosis. Outlook depends on extent of damage.

6 Prevention

Limiting asbestos exposure is the standard preventive measure for asbestosis. Special safety measures should be followed by people who are working with asbestos products. 

Many buildings that were built in the 1970’s have products containing asbestos. There is no risk of asbestosis when asbestos is in enclosed form. 

Once the products are damaged, the fibers may become airborne, increasing the chances of inhalation.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

A few alternative and homeopathic remedies exist for Asbestosis.

Cats claw, celandine, and mistletoe are considered to be natural remedies for alleviating symptoms of asbestosis. Licorice, hemp, cod liver oil, flax seed oil, baking soda, and vitamin C rich foods are used to reverse the effects of lung fibrosis. 

Arsenic album, ipecauc, natrum sulph, phosphorous, antim tart, cuprum met, nux vomica, stannum met, causticum, sepia, and silicea are indicated in controlling lung scarring in homeopathic method.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modification like quitting smoking is the best step towards reducing the risk of asbestosis. Lung infections can be reduced by getting vaccinated for pneumonia and flu. 

Follow the safety measures strictly, if in asbestos-related occupation. Have regular checkups if the risk of asbestosis is high.

9 Risks and Complications

Asbestosis increases the risk of lung cancer.

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