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 cannot 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 found in rocky areas across the globe. It is naturally durable and resistant to heat and flame. These properties made it appealing for use in many industries. As a result, it was 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.
Asbestos-related diseases often take decades to develop, making them extremely difficult to detect while they are still treatable. To make matters worse, it is impossible to tell what asbestos-related disease — if any — will arise after exposure.
If you or someone you love was routinely exposed to asbestos through their job or military service, getting the facts about asbestos-related diseases is extremely important.
How Does Asbestos Cause Disease?
There are many different asbestos-related diseases. However, 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.
Asbestos fibers come in many different shapes. They can be sharp and straight or curly. Regardless of shape, all asbestos fibers are known to cause deadly diseases in humans.
Asbestos fibers cannot be broken down by the human body’s natural defense or digestive systems. As a result, they cause constant irritation to nearby tissue. This leads to abscesses, fluid buildup, and scarring in the affected areas over time. Eventually, this chronic irritation 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
Asbestos fibers are microscopic, so 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. Because of this, 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. This diseases 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 are not forms of cancer, they often go hand-in-hand with or lead to it. 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. When asbestos fibers get stuck in the lung, they cause damage and scarring. This damage makes it much harder for the lung to operate. Though asbestosis is not cancerous, it has no cure and can be deadly if left unchecked.
Common symptoms of asbestosis include:
- Chest pain
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath
Long-term deterioration from asbestos fibers harden 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 with relative ease. Doctors will often 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. Pleural effusions cannot be cured, but the can be treated. Without treatment, the fluid can become infected and lead to death.
Diagnosing Mesothelioma with Pleural Effusions
Pleural effusions are found in 90% of pleural mesothelioma cases. Thus, doctors consider them to be an important early sign of that cancer. 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. In some cases, they are also less serious than asbestosis or pleural effusions.
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.
Asbestos Diseases and Legal Assistance
If you have been exposed to asbestos, you still have options even if you have not yet developed cancer. All asbestos-related diseases are incurable, and many of them cause mental and physical pain.
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 if you are 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 contact form or call (800) 647-3434.