Though asbestos was thought to be a useful building material for many years, it poses a significant danger to humans. Outside of cancers, asbestos can cause serious issues like asbestosis and pleural effusions. If you've been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, contact us now to help pursue financial compensation.
Diseases Caused by Asbestos
There are several non-cancerous pleural diseases that are caused by long-term damage from the carcinogen asbestos. The most serious of them is asbestosis. This disease occurs when asbestos fibers wear away at the lung and cripple lung function. Asbestos fibers can also cause fluid and plaque buildup over time.
While these diseases are not forms of cancer, they are often related to it. For example, asbestosis may lead to a higher risk of lung cancer, as the asbestos fibers cause more damage over time.
Asbestosis, or diffuse pulmonary fibrosis, 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 leading to weight loss
- 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 health effects or illnesses to arise. Asbestosis may lead to heart failure or mesothelioma.
Interstitial fibrosis is a general name that refers to a group of over 200 different chronic lung diseases and disorders, including asbestosis. These disorders are characterized by scarring of the tissue between the air sacs in the lungs, which is often caused by exposure to dangerous airborne materials like asbestos.
There are two main signs and symptoms for interstitial fibrosis:
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath at rest or aggravated by exertion
Once lung scarring occurs, it’s usually considered to be irreversible. While some medications may slow the damage of interstitial fibrosis, many people never regain full function of their lungs. Depending on the exact disorder, lung transplants may be an option for those suffering from interstitial fibrosis.
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 wall and drain the fluid. They may also inflame the pleura, which will encourage it to seal and stop fluid from entering. Without treatment, the fluid can become infected and lead to death.
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 using a biopsy 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 lung diseases. However, some studies have suggested it may lead to an increased risk of 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.
Finding Help for Asbestos-Related Diseases
Asbestos fibers are microscopic, making them 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 occupational exposure to 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.
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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.
There are two primary types of asbestos: chrysotile and amphibole. 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, the effects of asbestos include constant irritation to nearby lung tissue. This leads to abscesses, fluid buildup, and scarring in the affected areas. Over time, this chronic irritation causes diseases.
What disease a person develops depends on a few factors, including:
- Type of asbestos they were exposed to
- Location the asbestos fibers settle in their body
- If the asbestos damage leads to cellular mutations
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.
“Because of its ability to insulate from heat and protect against fire, asbestos has been widely used as a building material. It has been especially important in the shipbuilding industry.”
– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
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 in or swallow asbestos 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 conditions is extremely important.
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 family members 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.
Asbestos Diseases FAQ
Can asbestos cause asthma?
Studies on asbestos’s link to asthma are not yet conclusive. Authors of a 2011 study that appeared in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine reported a suspected likelihood that asbestos exposure may itself be a risk factor for the development of bronchial asthma.
Studies prior to this determined the opposite. Because asbestos-triggered diseases can affect a person’s breathing, initial diagnoses can be challenging; often symptoms of asbestosis and mesothelioma resemble that of asthma and pneumonia.
Does asbestos cause COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a lung disease that most commonly refers to chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In most cases, COPD is caused by smoking, but the disease can be triggered by environmental toxins such as abundant pollution, chemical fumes, and exposure to asbestos and silica dust.
Because the use of asbestos was so widespread in industrial workplaces around the U.S., many workers have inhaled asbestos fibers and gone on to develop lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis, and COPD.
How does asbestos affect the body?
Asbestos can affect the body in a number of ways. Once inhaled or ingested, this fibrous mineral can cause an irritating or inflammatory reaction inside the body. Typically, asbestos fibers attack the body’s mesothelium, which is the thin, protective tissue that surrounds one’s internal organs, including the heart, lungs, and abdomen.
Over time, typically between 20-50 years, scarring can develop on these tissues and ultimately cause cancer, including mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Is asbestos really dangerous?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), all six forms of asbestos are known carcinogens and can be extremely dangerous to the health and wellbeing of humans. Getting exposed to asbestos and breathing in or ingesting its fibers can lead to an array of cancers, including cancers of lung, larynx, ovaries, and mesothelioma (a type of cancer that attacks the mesothelium, or the thin linings that protect the heart, abdomen, and lungs).
Can asbestos kill you?
Exposure to asbestos can cause chronic diseases that lead to death. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they build up in the lining of the lungs, heart, and chest, as the body is unable to break them down. This can trigger a number of health complications. The most dangerous form of disease caused by asbestos exposure is mesothelioma, a rare cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 3,000 people each year are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, representing 0.02 percent of cancer cases in the U.S. The disease is incurable at this stage, meaning all mesothelioma cases result in death.
Can asbestos cause pneumonia?
Asbestos exposure can harm lung cells and cause various diseases of the lungs. These include scarring (asbestosis), non-cancerous tissue disease, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. However, other respiratory infections such as asthma and pneumonia are caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
It is still important to ask your doctor about getting a vaccine against pneumonia if you think you have been exposed to asbestos, as this infection is an early sign of lung cancer.
Symptoms to look out for include:
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing up blood
- Pain in chest abdomen
- Muscle weakness
Does asbestos make you cough?
Asbestos will not make you cough or sneeze at first exposure. In fact, most people are unable to tell whether asbestos is harming their lungs until symptoms develop decades after they are first exposed.
If a patient develops mesothelioma (a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure), they will eventually experience symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain.