Asbestosis is another serious health defect caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres. Mesothelioma can occur in people after contact with asbestos for any amount of time, whereas asbestosis is more commonly found in people who have been in contact with asbestos for a long period of time.
Asbestosis is often referred to as a ‘chronic inflammatory disease’ and is caused by the scarring of the lung tissue from the inhalation of the fibres. The main symptom of asbestosis is severe shortness of breath after periods of exertion. This shortness of breath can continue long after the period of exertion and can be extremely painful. The effects of asbestosis can take several years to materialise; decades can pass in some cases.
The symptoms of asbestosis often get progressively worse over time and the shortness of breath can even result in heart failure in some cases, due to the lack of oxygen in the body. Shortness of breath occurs because of the inflammation and scarring on the lining of the lungs. This damage to the tissue means that the surface area on which the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place is drastically reduced. This exchange of gases is essential for efficient breathing. The asbestos fibres that are inhaled lodge deep into the lungs and the body’s natural defences kick in and inflammation occurs.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for asbestosis, yet there are a number of treatments that help to manage the effects. One effective method of relieving shortness of breath is to use oxygen treatment. This allows the body to intake more oxygen particles per breath than would be inhaled in regular air. Nebulizers are commonly used, much in the way that asthma sufferers use them to allow breathing with greater ease.