|Thickening and Fibrosis of Lung Tissue|
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People who handle asbestos material at their workplace:
- Workers who mine or process asbestos
- Construction workers
- Shipyard workers
- Vehicle mechanics
- Family members of people who work with asbestos and bring the fibers home on their hair or clothing
- People who work at sites where asbestos is found
- Shortness of breath—this is the first noticeable symptom and occurs with exercise or heavy effort
- Cough—the cough is persistent and nonproductive (which means no mucus is produced)
- Chest pain or tightness
- Feeling generally unwell
- Loss of appetite
- Finger clubbing, in some cases, caused by a build-up of fluid
- Weight loss
- Reliable history of exposure to asbestos
- Evidence of lung scarring and fibrosis which is based on a physical exam and/or X-ray
- Absence of other causes that may produce similar clinical pictures
- Chest X-ray—changes seen on the exam usually have a distinctive pattern
- CT scan —will detect changes more easily
- Pulmonary function test—a test that measures how well the lungs take in and exhale air. The test can show if the lungs have reduced ability to function properly.
- Oximetry is a noninvasive means to assess oxygen status.
- Prevent further exposure to asbestos
- Stop smoking—people who have asbestosis and smoke cigarettes greatly increase their risk of developing lung cancer
- Getting immediate treatment for colds and other respiratory infections
- Staying updated with vaccinations, especially for flu and pneumococcus
- Avoiding crowds, where infections might be spread
- Having regular chest x-rays or CT scans to watch for signs of cancers associated with asbestos
- Having oxygen therapy and other respiratory therapies that can make breathing easier
- Improve the nutritional state
- Encourage breathing and physical exercises
- Home oxygen, if necessary
American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org
Occupational Safety and Health Administration http://www.osha.gov
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety http://www.ccohs.ca
The Lung Association http://www.lung.ca
American Thoracic Society. Diagnosis and initial management of nonmalignant diseases related to asbestos. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2004;170(6):691-715.
Asbestos exposure and cancer risk. National Cancer Institute website. Available at:http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/asbestos/asbestos-fact-sheet. Updated May 1, 2009. Accessed June 30, 2015.
Asbestos: Health effects of exposure to asbestos. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) website. Available at: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/asbestos/asbestos/health%5Feffects. Updated April 1, 2008. Accessed June 30, 2015.
Becklake MR, Bagatin E, Neder JA. Asbestose-related diseases of the lungs and pleura: Uses, trends and management over the last century. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis 2007;11(4):356-69.
Mossman BT, Gee JBL. Medical progress: Asbestos-related diseases. N Engl J Med. 1989;320:1721.
O’Reilly KM, Mclaughlin AM, Beckett WS, Sime PJ. Asbestos-related lung disease. Am Fam Physician. 2007;75(5):683-638.
Sette A, Neder JA, Nery LE, et al. Thin-section CT abnormalities and pulmonary gas exchange impairment in workers exposed to asbestos. Radiology. 2004;232(1):66-74.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 06/2015 -
- Update Date: 02/10/2014 -
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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