Asbestosis ("asbestoses" is the pleural form) is a non-cancerous scarring of the delicate tissues of the lungs caused by asbestos exposure. Although it is not cancerous, asbestos exposure may also cause lung cancer or mesothelioma, and asbestosis is an indicator that you are at a higher risk of contracting these asbestos-related diseases.
Asbestos, a mineral used regularly in a variety of industrial and construction applications, is made up of very small fibers, thinner than a human hair, which can easily be inhaled when airborne. Once inhaled into the lungs, the fibers lodge themselves in the narrow branches of the lung and are too strong to be broken down by the body's natural defenses.
Lodged inside these branches, the asbestos fibers cause inflammation and scarring. This excessive scar tissue, or fibrosis, makes the lungs stiff and their contractions to move air in and out difficult. Asbestosis victims may have an extremely difficult time breathing and chronic cough.
Like mesothelioma, it usually takes over a decade, if not several decades, after asbestos exposure that asbestosis arises. Generally, asbestosis is diagnosed 15 years after exposure. Asbestosis shares some similarities with silicosis (miner's lung), in that they are both pneumoconioses (chronic, incurable lung diseases) resulting from the inhalation of an irritant. Asbestos pneumoconiosis, idiopathic interstitial pneumonitis, and pulmonary fibrosis are all alternate names for asbestosis.
There is no cure for asbestosis. To prevent further damage to your lungs, it is important to avoid asbestos exposure and to stop smoking, which can further impair the lung's functioning. If you have asbestosis, you also run a greater risk of respiratory infections, so you may be treated with antibiotics and are advised to keep your flu shots and such up to date.
Treatments include the administration of oxygen and procedures or medications to remove or thin the secretions of the lungs.
If you believe you may be suffering from asbestosis, you should contact your physician immediately. If you have been diagnosed with asbestosis, make sure that your rights are protected. Your rights vary depending on many factors such as your residence, where you were exposed to asbestos, and the location of the responsible asbestos companies. Find an asbestos attorney here.
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Other common misspellings: misothelioma, mesothileoma, mesotholoma, msothelioma, misothilioma. A little on the etymology of mesothelioma.