Asbestosis, Mesothelioma, and Related Diseases

Quick Summary

Asbestosis is the most common disease caused by asbestos exposure. It is not cancer, but it causes scar tissue to develop on a person’s lungs. This scar tissue can prevent air flow to the lungs, which can prove to be fatal. If your asbestosis was caused by an employer’s negligence, compensation may be available to you.

Asbestos and Asbestosis: An Overview

Asbestos is a natural mineral extracted from below the Earth’s surface. The mineral is cheap, durable, and fire-resistant. These factors made it a popular choice for many industrial products. It was used to make paint, insulation, drywall, and other building materials.

In recent decades, however, asbestos fibers have been linked to various types of diseases and cancers. However, even after asbestos companies knew their products were incredibly dangerous to human health, they chose to hide the truth.

At the time, the asbestos industry was very profitable. Asbestos companies feared to expose the dangers of their products. Their decision put the lives of thousands of men and women in jeopardy.

Asbestos exposure may have taken place through:

Now, those who were exposed to asbestos decades ago are developing fatal diseases, including cancer.

Among the many diseases caused by asbestos exposure is asbestosis. Asbestosis causes a person’s lungs to become calloused and restricted by scar tissue. This scar tissue forms from irritation by inhaled or ingested asbestos fibers. While it is benign, it can be deadly and is one of the most common asbestos-related diseases.

What Is Asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a disease caused by long-term damage from asbestos fibers. If asbestos products are disturbed, they release fibers into the air. These fibers are microscopic, so you do not know you are breathing them in.

Once inside your body, these fibers can settle in one or both lungs. Since the asbestos fibers are so strong, your body cannot get rid of them. They also cause damage to your lungs by irritating healthy tissue. The lungs get scarred and stiffen from this irritation over time.

Patients with asbestosis frequently have problems breathing because of the damage to their lungs. These problems can be life-threatening in severe cases.

Did You Know?

Both asbestosis and mesothelioma share the same risk factors, causes, and symptoms. However, asbestos fibers settle in different parts of the body in each case. Doctors still do not know how the fibers wind up in different body parts.

Asbestosis vs Mesothelioma

There are key differences between asbestosis and mesothelioma. The biggest is that asbestosis is not a form of cancer. It is a chronic disorder of the lung that causes progressive damage and scarring. On the other hand, mesothelioma is a rare cancer with no cure.

These diseases also develop in two different parts of the body. Asbestosis affects the lung directly. In mesothelioma, the asbestos fibers get stuck in the lining of the lungs (the pleura).

Mesothelioma first starts out as a “nodule.” A nodule is a tiny mass that looks like a pimple, but it rapidly grows into a sheet. This growth prevents the affected lung from working properly.

Symptoms of Asbestosis and Mesothelioma

It is hard to distinguish asbestosis from mesothelioma as they share similar symptoms and causes. Doctors can almost never tell the difference between them without advanced imaging tests.

The symptoms of both diseases usually take 20-50 years to develop.

Shared symptoms of asbestosis and mesothelioma include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Chest pains
  • Persistent, dry cough
  • Shortness of breath

Long-Term Issues Caused by Asbestosis

A person with asbestosis will often experience breathing issues. Over time, serious health problems from asbestosis can develop as the disease worsens.

Long-term complications include:

  • Clubbing (fingertips and toes that appear wider and rounder than normal)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure in the lungs
  • Lung cancer

Diagnosing and Treating Asbestosis and Mesothelioma

Doctors typically order imaging tests to determine the cause of serious symptoms. These tests allow them to see if there are any suspicious masses (like tumors) in or near the lung. In the process, doctors can narrow down what illness you may have.

These tests include:

  • Chest X-rays
  • CT scans
  • Tests of lung functioning

However, the only way to formally diagnose an asbestos-related disease is through a biopsy.

A biopsy is a sample of tissue that doctors examine for a disease. If a person has pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lung lining, doctors will take a biopsy from the pleura. To diagnose asbestosis, doctors need a sample directly from the lung.

Once the sample is collected, doctors will look for cancer cells under a microscope. Doctors will order additional tests to determine the extent and severity of the disease or cancer.

Both mesothelioma and lung cancer have no cures, but they can be treated. However, treatments for each present challenges.

Mesothelioma may be treatable with surgery, depending on the age and overall health of the patient. If caught early on, patients may be able to extend their life by several months or years. Patients diagnosed with late-stage mesothelioma can receive treatments to reduce their symptoms.

The downside is that, since mesothelioma has no cure, it is almost always fatal.

Asbestosis also has no cure, and unfortunately, there are not a lot of treatment options for it. However, those with asbestosis generally live longer than those with mesothelioma.

Doctors will recommend that patients exercise, eat well, and take oxygen-supportive medication. These activities can help manage the disease’s symptoms. Some patients may also need a lung transplant in rare instances.

Asbestosis vs Mesothelioma Prognosis

Though asbestosis presents long-term symptoms that worsen over time, it is not as deadly as mesothelioma. Most people diagnosed with asbestosis can survive for many years after the fact.

On the other hand, mesothelioma is highly aggressive and notoriously hard to treat. New treatments show promise but there is no known cure. Only a low number of people survive for many years after a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Preventing Asbestos-Related Diseases

The only way to not develop an asbestos-related disease is to avoid asbestos fibers altogether.

If you or a loved one has any notable symptoms, it is very important that you talk to your doctor about any previous exposure to asbestos. You may also need to see a mesothelioma specialist.

Seeking Compensation after an Asbestosis Diagnosis

Like mesothelioma, asbestosis is caused solely by exposure to dangerous asbestos fibers. Asbestos was used widely during the 20th century across dozens of industries, putting certain workers at a higher risk of developing asbestos-related diseases like asbestosis.

Companies who made and sold asbestos-containing products knew of the harm they could cause to workers’ health. However, they chose to hide the truth to keep making profits. Their negligence put thousands of workers and military veterans at risk of falling ill later in life.

If you believe you were exposed to asbestos on the job or while serving in the military and developed asbestosis as a result, do not wait. Compensation may be available to you. This compensation can be used to cover medical expenses, supplement lost income, and provide for your family.

Get a Free Legal Case Review Now

For those suffering from asbestosis, the time to take legal action is now. Get a free case review today to learn about your legal options and if you qualify for compensation.

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Author:Sokolove Law

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and mesothelioma attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of mesothelioma and their families.

Last modified: July 25, 2019