What is asbestosis?
Asbestosis is a terminal lung condition in the form of pneumoconiosis and is
caused specifically by microscopic asbestos fibres. The disease is characterised by scarring and inflammation of lung tissue. It is irreversible and the condition takes decades to reveal itself following asbestos exposure. Infact many people die (not of asbestosis directly) without ever realising they were affected by the disease.
Asbestosis, over time, creates laboured and painful breathing because the Lung’s tissues are scarred from embedded fibres that impede the natural breathing process. This impairs normal daily activities and seriously impacts the quality of life for sufferers.
The main symptoms
The main symptoms of asbestosis are:
- Breathing difficulties – particularly shortness of breath
- Chest issues – particularly tightness and pain
- Clubbing – toes and fingertips that are rounder and wider than normal
- Cough – a persistent and dry cough and
- Lung noise – dry and crackling sounds from the lungs when air is inhaled
- Weight and appetite loss – there is reduced appetite which leads to weight loss over time
About asbestosis treatment
Asbestos treatment exists to slow its progression and help patients with the disease live longer after being initially diagnosed. The two most common treatments, medication and breathing treatments are a combination treatment that eases the symptoms, later in the condition surgery may come into play also.
As previously discussed, there is no known cure for this disease, all Asbestosis treatment options available are only palliative, meaning they are designed to address the symptoms of asbestosis to improve the patient’s quality of life. Treatments focus on aiding the patient’s breathing process.
Doctors mainly prescribe inhalers and medications like bronchodilators, aspirin, and antibiotics as the main treatment methods. In some patients, treatments such as a humidifier, oxygen therapy, chest percussion or postural drainage are required and recommended to relieve symptoms of chest congestion, tightness and difficulty breathing.
If the patient’s symptoms continue to deteriorate so that medication asbestosis treatment doesn’t work, doctors are left with the final option to recommend a surgical procedure to remove the damaged and scarred lung tissue.
The need to avoid smoking
One major piece of advice to patients with asbestosis is for them absolutely avoid smoking, as recent medical studies show that smoking accelerates the disease and negates the medication given by doctors.
Drugs used in the Treatment of Asbestosis
Doctors involved in asbestosis treatment recommend many combinations of drugs and treatments to help with breathing difficulties and discomfort that are associated with asbestosis, most of these medications are over-the-counter cough drops and cough syrups. However, if required because of a deterioration of the condition these will be supplanted with further, prescription-strength products and drugs.
UK statistics for asbestosis cases and deaths
In their “Asbestos-related disease statistics, Great Britain 2021” the Health & Safety Executive revealed that for the year 2019:
- 219 deaths were specifically listed with asbestosis being the underlying cause of death
- 490 deaths were listed with asbestosis as a factor (including the 219 above)
- As a comparison, 100 deaths per year were attributed to asbestosis in the late 1970s
- 905 new cases of asbestosis were reported in 2019 and
- For every year analysed, women represent only 2-3% of the population suffering from asbestosis
- The male death rate from asbestosis was 16.5 per million
It is a fact that most deaths and new cases are caused by exposures from decades ago. The ban on asbestos of 1999 has significantly reduced exposures, but it will take many decades to come before all exposures are detected.
Other asbestos-related diseases
Asbestosis is just one of a number of diseases related to the past exposure of asbestos. Others include mesothelioma, lung cancer, and pleural thickening. For further information on this topic, read our article - Asbestos: The Main Four Diseases.
Professionally remove and minimise contact with asbestos
We don’t want to be considered scaremongers, but the only cure to this condition is to ensure that you minimise your contact with airborne asbestos. Safeline Environmental is a professional asbestos removal company. If you are concerned about asbestos on your premises and want to avoid the risk of asbestosis and other diseases, contact Safeline Environmental for asbestos testing services and asbestos removal services.
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