Asbestosis disease is a breathing disorder caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. Asbestosis disease causes scarring in the lungs that makes for difficulty breathing. Because it begins when large quantities of the fibers have entered the lungs, it mainly occurs among people who were exposed to asbestos for prolonged periods.
The extreme difficulty breathing people experience with asbestosis disease begins quietly and continues to grow worse, but not until years after exposure to asbestos. Asbestosis can be a disabling disease.
Symptoms of asbestosis may begin twenty to thirty years after exposure. Lungs gradually get damaged and scarred after asbestos fibers accumulate in your lungs. Lungs are meant to expand and contract, but with asbestosis disease, your lungs gradually get restricted from normal movement (pulmonary fibrosis). Asbestosis can continue to progress even after exposure to asbestos ceases.
Asbestosis symptoms can include:
- Difficulty breathing—at first on exertion, but gradually also while resting
- Inability to perform normal physical activities with ease
- Chest pain
- Some patients develop clubbing in the finger tips (enlargement and nail separation)
These signs and symptoms are not unlike those of asthma or other breathing illnesses. However, they tend to develop in a slow and methodical way over the course of time. In asbestosis disease the effects will be felt gradually rather than suddenly or acutely, and it can take time to reach a correct diagnosis when the symptoms of asbestosis may be mistaken for many other problems.
Asbestos & Mesothelioma
The key is that asbestosis disease is always associated with exposure to asbestos. Asbestos and asbestosis and mesothelioma are closely linked. Asbestosis disease can be a precursor to developing mesothelioma, the specific cancer that attacks cells in the surfaces of the body's internal organs (mesothelial cells), usually on the lungs. Mesothelioma is also strongly linked to being exposed to asbestos.