Though asbestos was thought for many years to be a useful building material, it poses a significant danger to humans. Asbestos is made up of tiny fibers that the human body can’t break down. These fibers can scar the inside of major organs and lead to long-term health problems. Outside of cancers, asbestos can cause serious issues like asbestosis and pleural effusions.
Asbestos and Deadly Diseases
Asbestos is a mineral that occurs in rocky areas across the globe. Its resistance to heat and fire, along with its durability, made it appealing for use in many industries. As a result, it was mined commercially and used for over a century to make buildings, ships, and a wide variety of construction materials and consumer products.
However, despite its wide use throughout much of the 20th century, it is now well-known that asbestos exposure can cause serious health issues if humans breathe asbestos in or swallow its fibers. Outside of different kinds of cancer, asbestos exposure is also known to cause other devastating illnesses like asbestosis.
Perhaps even scarier is the fact that asbestos-related diseases often take decades to develop, making them extremely difficult to detect while they are still treatable. To make matters worse, it’s impossible to tell if someone will develop an asbestos-related disease and which one—if any—will arise after exposure.
If you or someone you love was routinely exposed to asbestos at a job or through military service, getting the facts about asbestos-related diseases is extremely important.
How Does Asbestos Cause Disease?
Though asbestos-related diseases have important differences, they all share a common cause: long-term damage from asbestos fibers.
Asbestos was an important building material because it was cheap, non-flammable and extremely strong. In fact, its tensile strength surpasses that of steel. However, it can easily crumble and release fibers into the air. When these microscopic fibers become airborne, humans can inhale or ingest them without notice.
There are many different shapes asbestos fibers come in including sharp and straight or curly. Regardless of shape, all asbestos fibers are known to cause deadly diseases in humans.
Asbestos fibers cannot be easily broken down by the human body’s natural defense or digestive mechanisms, so they linger, causing constant irritation to nearby tissue. Over time, this leads to abscesses, fluid buildup, and scarring in the affected areas. This chronic irritation eventually causes diseases.
What disease a person develops depends on a few factors, including:
- Type of asbestos exposed to
- Location the asbestos fibers settle in their body
- If the asbestos damage leads to cellular mutations
Because asbestos fibers are microscopic, they are impossible to remove. As a result, no asbestos-related disease can be cured. However, there are treatment options that can help patients manage them.
Most people never realized asbestos could make them sick, and they may not be able to afford the treatments that can prolong their lives. This is where a mesothelioma law firm like Sokolove Law can help. By pursuing legal action against asbestos companies, families affected by asbestos-related diseases may qualify for compensation to cover costly medical treatments.
Diseases Caused by Asbestos
There are several non-cancerous diseases that are caused by long-term damage from asbestos fibers. The most serious of them is asbestosis, which occurs when asbestos fibers wear away at the lung and cripple its functionality. Asbestos fibers can also cause fluid and plaque buildup over time.
While these diseases aren’t forms of cancer, they often go hand-in-hand or lead to cancer. For example, asbestosis may lead to cancer as the asbestos fibers cause more damage over time.
Asbestosis is a non-cancerous lung disease caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. Though asbestosis is not cancerous, it has no cure and can be deadly if left unchecked. When asbestos fibers get stuck in the lung and cause scars to develop, they make it much harder for the lung to operate uninhibited.
Common symptoms of asbestosis include:
- Chest pain
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath
Long-term deterioration from asbestos fibers hardens the affected person’s lung. This can deprive them of oxygen and eventually suffocate them. In some cases, lung deterioration can cause other illnesses to arise. Asbestosis may lead to heart failure or mesothelioma.
A “pleural effusion” is a buildup of fluid in the lung lining. Pleural effusions are caused when pressure is put on the lung lining, which makes the blood vessels leak fluid.
Common symptoms of pleural effusions include:
- A persistent, worsening cough
- Chest pain
- Collapse of the lung
- Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
Pleural effusions can be treated by doctors relatively easily. More often than not, doctors will insert a needle into the chest and drain the fluid. They may also inflame the pleura, which will encourage it to seal and stop fluid from entering. It is important to note, there is no cure for pleural effusions, and without treatment, the fluid can become infected and lead to death.
Pleural effusions are found in 90% of pleural mesothelioma cases and doctors consider them to be an important early sign. However, pleural effusions can also be caused by asbestosis. Doctors can analyze the fluid to see if it is a sign of cancer.
Other Asbestos-Related Diseases
There are a few other asbestos-related diseases that are less common, and, in some cases, less serious than asbestosis or pleural effusion.
Pleural plaque is a chalky, calcium-based material that builds upon the lining of the lungs. According to the British Thoracic Society, pleural plaque is the most common disease associated with asbestos exposure.
This disease typically has no physical symptoms, and as a result, it does not require treatment. At this time, there is no proven link between pleural plaque and more serious asbestos-related diseases. However, some studies have suggested it may be an independent risk factor for mesothelioma.
A neoplasm is a lump or tumor that grows after cellular mutation takes place in the body. It is an abnormal growth due to increased and randomized cellular division. While some neoplasms are cancerous, others are pre-cancerous or benign. A neoplasm may not perform any particular function because the cells may not be organized.
Asbestos Diseases and Legal Assistance
If you’ve been exposed to asbestos, it’s important to know that you still have options even if you have not yet developed cancer. All asbestos-related diseases are incurable and cause mental and physical pain and anguish.
The legal team at Sokolove Law knows this all too well. For over 40 years, we have worked with patients and families who have been affected by asbestos-related diseases from asbestosis to mesothelioma. Helping people affected by asbestos is our area of expertise.
Regardless of your situation, we can still determine whether or not you may be eligible for compensation. If you want or need additional information, we are happy to help. To learn more or to seek our guidance, please fill out and submit our brief contact form or call (800) 647-3434.