Asbestosis — Know It All!

Editorial

All you need to know about Asbestosis.

Know your ailment well, so you can manage it better!!

Here we come with Asbestosis today!

What is Asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a chronic condition of the lungs caused by asbestos fibres being inhaled. Prolonged exposure to these fibres can cause scarring of lung tissue and shortness of breath. Symptoms of asbestosis can vary from moderate to extreme and do not usually occur until several years after continued exposure.

Asbestos is a natural mineral substance which is fire- and corrosion-resistant. It has been used widely in materials such as insulation, cement and some floor tiles in the past.

Before the federal government started restricting the use of asbestos and asbestos materials in the 1970s, most workers with asbestosis contracted it on the job. Its management is tightly regulated today. If you follow the protection protocols of your employer, contracting asbestosis is highly impossible. The focus of therapy is on relieving your symptoms.

What causes Asbestosis?

Asbestosis is caused only by asbestos contamination. Asbestos inhalation allows small fibres to accumulate within lung tissue, causing injury and scarring.

Asbestos-induced injury is due to irritation of the tissue of the lungs. Inflammation happens as the body detects a foreign invader and sends the immune system to activate and strengthen macrophages, a type of white blood cell, and other immune cells.

The scar tissue that develops as a result of inflammation can occur around the air sacs or alveoli of the lung, making it harder to absorb oxygen from your body. Fibroblast cells, creating the extracellular matrix and collagen responsible for the integrity of the lungs, may also be impaired by asbestosis.

Asbestosis is most likely to be at risk among employees in the construction, railroad, automobile and shipbuilding sectors.

Drywall removers, firefighters, demolition personnel and those who helped during the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center include another group of at-risk workers. Asbestos used in the building of the North Tower was revealed to these workers.

What are the symptoms of Asbestosis?

It increasingly gets difficult for them to extend and fill with fresh air as scar tissue develops around the microscopic air sacs of the lungs.

A variety of symptoms may be caused by this, including:

Shortness of breath

  • A persistent cough that is dry
  • The tightness of the chest and pain
  • Tiredness
  • Weight and Appetite Reduction
  • Crackling sound when breathing

The cough, pain and crackling sound associated with asbestosis is caused by the stiffening of the lungs, and it often results in insufficient oxygen being supplied to the blood, causing shortness of breath. Since the body depends on oxygen for nutrition, exhaustion and weight loss result from persistent breathing problems.

Advanced Symptoms

Pulmonary hypertension

Scar tissue forming will also constrict arteries and make it more difficult to pump blood out of the heart and into the lungs without increasing the pressure needed to conduct the action. This is also pulmonary hypertension, which is a distinct disease than “high blood pressure” or chronic hypertension, which happens more often. Pulmonary hypertension is risky because it causes the heart to function faster, leading potentially to earlier coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure complications.

Clubbed fingers and toes

A symptom called “clubbing” can occur when the lungs supply inadequate oxygen to the blood. Wider and rounder than usual, the tips of the toes and fingers appear. Owing to the lack of oxygen reaching the extremities of the body, fingernails and toenails can become deformed.

Managing Symptoms

By taking action to change their lifestyle, patients may mitigate the effects of asbestosis:

  • Feed a diet that is well balanced and keep hydrated.
  • Per night, get enough sleep and take quick breaks throughout the day.
  • Regularly workout without overexerting yourself.
  • By having flu and pneumonia vaccines, washing your hands and preventing big crowds, eliminate respiratory infections.
  • Stop emissions from the air and smoke from cigarettes.

What are the risk factors of Asbestosis?

People who worked in mining, milling, manufacturing, installation or removal of asbestos products before the late 1970s are at risk of asbestosis. Examples include:

  • Asbestos miners
  • Aircraft and auto mechanics
  • Boiler operators
  • Building construction workers
  • Electricians
  • Railroad workers
  • Refinery and mill workers
  • Shipyard workers
  • Workers removing asbestos insulation around steam pipes in older buildings

In general, the risk of asbestosis is related to the amount and length of asbestos exposure. The greater the penetration, the higher the chance of injury to the lungs.

For family members of infected employees, secondhand contamination is likely, since asbestos fibres may be taken home on garments. Asbestos fibres discharged into the air could also be exposed to people living near to mines.

In general, as long as the asbestos fibres are stored, it is secure to be among materials that are made of asbestos. This keeps them from going in and being inhaled into the air.

What are the complications of Asbestosis?

You have an elevated chance of contracting lung cancer if you have asbestosis, particularly if you smoke or have a history of smoking. Rarely, several years after asbestos exposure, malignant mesothelioma, a cancer of the tissue around the lung, can occur.

How is Asbestosis diagnosed?

It can be hard to diagnose asbestosis because the signs and symptoms are identical to those of many other forms of respiratory diseases.

Physical exam

Your doctor addresses your health records, profession and asbestos contamination risk as part of your assessment. Your doctor uses a stethoscope during a medical exam to closely listen to your lungs to decide if they produce a crackling sound when inhaling.

To help pinpoint the diagnosis, a series of diagnostic tests may be required.

Imaging tests

Those checks reveal pictures of the lungs:

Chest X-ray.

Advanced asbestosis shows up in the lung tissue as unnecessary whiteness. The tissue of both lungs could be impacted if the asbestosis is serious, giving them a honeycomb appearance.

Computerized tomography (CT) scan.

To create cross-sectional images of the bones and soft tissues within the body, CT scans incorporate a collection of X-ray views obtained from several different angles. In addition, these scans provide better clarity and may help diagnose asbestosis in its early stages, even before it emerges on an X-ray of the lung.

Pulmonary function tests

Spirometry Test:

Such tests decide how well the lungs perform. Pulmonary function measures calculate the volume of oxygen in and out of your lungs that your lungs can accommodate and the airflow.

You may be asked to blow as hard as you can into an air-measurement instrument called a spirometer during the test. The amount of oxygen being transported into your bloodstream can be determined by more complete pulmonary function tests.

Diagnostic procedures

Your doctor may remove fluid and tissue in certain cases for tests to detect asbestos fibres or irregular cells. Tests can involve:

Bronchoscopy.

A thin tube (bronchoscope) is passed down your throat and through your lungs through your nose or mouth. A light and a small camera on the bronchoscope allow the doctor to check for any anomalies within the airways of your lungs or, if necessary, to get a fluid or tissue sample (biopsy).

Thoracentesis

Your doctor injects a local anaesthetic through this operation and then sticks a needle between your ribs and lungs into your chest wall to extract extra fluid for lab examination and to make you breathe better. With the assistance of ultrasound guidance, your doctor might insert the needle.

What is the treatment for Asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a disease which is permanent. Both asbestosis care options are palliative, with the exception of lung transplantation, meaning they combat the effects of asbestosis and improve the quality of life of the patient.

Because the disease gets worse over time, as they age, patients need increased care.

Supplemental oxygen

For patients with limited lung capacity, supplemental oxygen from a portable oxygen tank is also required. The tank fills the lungs with additional oxygen through a rubber tube with two prongs that fit into the nostrils of the patient.

Medications

To make coughing simpler and alleviate chest pressure, drugs will thin lung secretions. However, for the treatment of asbestosis, corticosteroids (anti-inflammatory medications) and immunosuppressants are not effective.

Lung Recovery

In order to better deal with chronic respiratory problems, pulmonary therapy helps people develop strategies and make lifestyle changes. To care for both clinical and psychological needs, a team of therapists work together.

Lung transplants

When asbestosis is followed by more serious lung conditions, such as emphysema or lung cancer, lung transplants are most commonly considered. It is a highly invasive, last-resort procedure, and a patient needs to undergo rigorous screening to assess the relative probability of survival in order to be placed on a lung transplant waiting list.

Via complementary and holistic medicinal therapies, such as acupuncture, massage therapy and homoeopathic remedies, some patients also find relaxation. While none of these therapies has a solution for asbestosis, all of them provide pain relief and enhanced pulmonary function.

How to prevent Asbestosis?

The best treatment of asbestosis is the avoidance of asbestos contamination. In the United States, federal law mandates workers to take additional protection precautions in businesses that deal with asbestos materials, such as manufacturing.

Most houses, schools and other structures constructed before the 1970s have asbestos-containing materials including pipes and floor tiles. Generally, as long as the asbestos is sealed and undisturbed, there is no chance of contamination. It’s because asbestos-containing products are contaminated that there is a risk of releasing and inhaling asbestos fibres into the air.

References:

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https://www.asbestos.com/asbestosis/

https://www.healthline.com/health/asbestosis

https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/295966-overview

https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/pulmonary-disorders/environmental-pulmonary-diseases/asbestosis

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asbestosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354637