Asbestosis is a non-cancerous, but still deadly, lung disease caused by asbestos exposure. It is severe scarring of the lungs which restricts their movement, making it increasingly difficult to breathe and sometimes leading to heart failure. Asbestosis is a painful and debilitating illness that has no cure.
The symptoms typically do not appear for 10 to 50 years after asbestos exposure, and after extensive lung damage has already occurred. Asbestosis is often misdiagnosed as other illnesses, such as asthma or a cold. Since many people are not aware of having been exposed to asbestos, they do not alert their doctors to the danger.
Asbestosis cannot be cured, but early detection is critical to survival. Untreated asbestosis can progress to lung collapse, pleurisy, and heart failure. Symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath after exertion
- Difficulty breathing at rest
- Frequent respiratory illness
- Coughing up blood
- Chest pain
- Difficulty sleeping
- Swelling of the hands, feet, and ankles
- Finger clubbing
Asbestosis is the result of long-term repeated attempts by your body’s immune system to get rid of the sharp, tiny asbestos fibers which are irritating your lungs. The fibers cannot be broken down or removed by the protective cells (known as macrophages) which normally dispose of foreign substances. Instead of the macrophages inactivating the asbestos fibers, the fibers kill the macrophages. Initially this causes inflammation, which is part of the immune response. When that fails, your immune system takes more serious action, depositing connective tissue to encapsulate the fibers. While it cannot get rid of the problem, but it doesn’t give up. More connective tissue is deposited until there is a fibrous mass.
Scar tissue in your lungs makes it difficult to breathe. By not allowing the lungs to expand and contract properly, the scar tissue lowers lung capacity. Your lungs become less and less efficient in exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide, making your breathing less and less effective.
It starts out with shortness of breath after exertion, and many people think they are developing asthma or just getting out of shape. As the scar tissue grows, you may find yourself out of breath just watching television. The things you do every day like walking to the mailbox or bathroom become tiring, requiring you to stop and catch your breath. Asbestosis can progress to the point that you never get enough oxygen, leaving you unable to get out of bed at all.
When your body is short on oxygen and your lungs cannot deliver it, your heart will try to compensate by constantly working hard to pump the much needed oxygen to your deprived tissues. This can eventually put too much strain on your heart, causing it to fail.
If you have developed asbestosis from your exposure to asbestos, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your damages. The experienced asbestos attorneys at Jacoby & Meyers can review your case and advise you on the best way to proceed.
Please contact our asbestos lawyers today to schedule your free initial consultation. Jacoby & Meyers has offices throughout the U.S.