The symptoms of illnesses caused by asbestos exposure can take 10 to 50 years to show up, but in the meantime the tiny, sharp fibers are slowly working on your body, doing irreversible damage. Your immune system cannot break down or get rid of the fibers. However, it will continue to try, causing a chronic inflammatory response that can lead to a variety of health problems, including several forms of cancer.
Non-Cancerous Lung Diseases
Asbestos can get into your body by inhalation or ingestion. Inhalation is the most common. The lungs can be damaged by asbestos even if cancer does not develop. Non-cancerous diseases affecting the lungs include:
- Asbestos pleural disease
The irritating presence of asbestos fibers triggers your immune system to try and get rid of them, but it cannot because they’re resistant to chemical change. Over time, these repeated attempts can cause scar tissue to form in your lungs, creating a condition called asbestosis. The scar tissue does not allow your lungs to expand and contract as they should, so lung capacity is reduced. Asbestos pleural disease is similar, but it occurs when the fibers are in the lining of the lungs rather than the lung tissue itself.
Both conditions are progressive. Breathing difficulty usually starts as shortness of breath after exertion, and it may be mistaken for asthma. Over time, it becomes hard to breathe even at rest. Lung capacity can finally be reduced so much that you become bedridden and may suffer heart failure.
Asbestos exposure can lead to several types of cancer throughout the body including:
- Lung cancer
- Larynx cancer
- Kidney cancer
Mesothelioma is cancer of the mesothelium, the protective lining around your lungs, heart and abdominal organs. There is no cure for it and once mesothelioma is diagnosed, most people live less than a year.
When lung capacity is reduced, the heart works harder, trying to compensate for the lack of oxygen. This can eventually cause the heart to fail. A type of mesothelioma called pericardial mesothelioma invades the protective lining around the heart. As part of this condition, the heart is not lubricated properly, tumors form, tissues around the heart expand, and fluid builds up around the heart, all of which interfere with the proper functioning of the heart.
If you have developed a serious condition because of your exposure to asbestos, the attorneys at Jacoby & Meyers can help you receive compensation for your damages. We have a great deal of experience handling these claims, and we will fight aggressively to protect your rights.