Asbestosis can be deadly and gaining more information about this diseases is a must. Here, you can learn about the truth of asbestosis quickly, as fast as 60 seconds.
What is asbestosis?
Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease that caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that made of microscopic fibres. It was widely used as a building material before the 1980s as it possesses excellent mechanical properties.
The mere presence of asbestos is not dangerous when left undisturbed. However, it can release airborne fibre when the material containing this substance is damaged or deteriorated. When the fibres are breathed in, they will enter the lungs and damage them over time. Exposure to a relatively high number of the fibres increases the risk of developing asbestosis.
However, fibres exposure is not the only risk factor of it since many people do not develop this disease despite heavy exposure.
Who can get asbestosis?
Almost the same with the mesothelioma disease, asbestosis is relatively rare since it will only develop due to continuous or prolonged exposure to fibres. It was reported that in 2011, 178 cases of deaths were directly related to it. While 429 other cases thought to be related to fibres exposure. Amongst any other workers, insulators and shipyard workers are two examples of employees who has high risks of developing it.
Besides them, many blue collar workers also have a great chance of being diagnosed with this disease. The list of occupations that may be exposed to airborne fibres is summarised below.
In the past, it was more common to occur in developed countries such as America or Australia. But now it is becoming more common in developing countries due to industrialisation and poor regulations on asbestos management.
It is estimated that around 3000 people in Australia die each year from asbestos-related disease. This number is predicted to increase and will peak in the year 2025.
What are the symptoms of it?
Inhaling airborne fibres can actually scar the lungs of some people, which subsequently lead to numerous symptoms, including:
- A persistent and dry cough
- Shortness of breath – this may occur first when you do physical activities, but it might eventually become a more constant problem over time
- Chest pain
Normally, it will develop in 20 or 30 years after heavy exposures. If these symptoms occur to you, contact your GP immediately to get tested and treated. Your physician will normally try to ease those symptoms and prevent further complications.
How to diagnose asbestosis?
To confirm that you have asbestosis, your physician may perform one of these diagnosis methods:
- X-ray: X-ray can help detect scarring of the lungs or fibrosis. It can also help with the detection of asbestos plaques in the pleura due to exposure. The picture below is an x-ray example of fibrosis where asbestosis is present in a patient. The fibrosis is shown as a streaky white figure on the left side. The lung should be normally black since it is filled with air.
- CT scan: CT scan can show lung fibrosis in a patient
- Lung functions test: The lung function can be assessed by spirometry. It may be used to show a restrictive pattern of lung problems such as an obstructive pattern in other lung diseases like asthma.
What are the current treatments for it?
There is no current cure for asbestosis since lungs damage is permanent and irreversible. The prognosis for this disease is relatively poor. It is a progressive disease and no current treatment is available to halt the process.
Management of the disease will focus on treating the symptoms and increasing patient’s quality of life. However, you can do preventive actions such as stop smoking since it can worsen the symptoms.
If you are a smoker, consider to stop it since smoking can damage the lungs condition. Smoking will also increase the risks of lung cancer in patients. As an alternative treatment, patients can use oxygen therapy to improve their quality of life.
How can I prevent asbestosis?
There are three different types of asbestos that were used as building materials. Two of them, called amosite and crocidolite, were banned in the 1980s while the third category (chrysotile) was banned in 1999.
However, large amounts of asbestos can still be found in many old buildings. If you live or work in a building that may contain fibres, you should take precautions to reduce the risk of exposure from this dangerous substance, check the removal of asbestos tips in this post. Seek an advice or help from an environmental health officer in your city if you suspect the presence of asbestos at your property.
Never try to remove doubtful material by yourself as it can be dangerous for you and people around you. If you are working closely with asbestos, be fully aware and seek information on how you can reduce the risk of exposure in your working place.