Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease that is caused by the lung tissue being scarred by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a general term that refers to a group of minerals which are made up of long fibres.
The three most common types are Chrysolite (white asbestos), Amosite (brown asbestos) and Crocidolite (blue asbestos). Asbestos is extremely strong and is resistant to heat and chemicals, which is why it was a common material used in the 1950's up until the 1980's.
It was used in industries such as:
Read our guide to learn more about the different types of asbestos.
If asbestos is disturbed, by drilling, chipping or breaking the surface, it can be very dangerous. This is because disturbed asbestos releases a fine dust that contains the asbestos fibres. When these fibres are breathed in, they enter the lungs and can cause disease. An individual must be exposed to asbestos fibres over a long period of time for asbestosis to develop.
There are also other factors which can contribute to the effect that asbestos exposure has on somebody, such as:
Symptoms of asbestosis usually develop many years after an individual has been exposed to the asbestos. It can sometimes be as little as seven years, but can often be much longer (20-30 years).
The general symptoms one would develop are:
And in more advanced cases:
If your GP suspects that you have asbestosis, you will be referred to a specialist in lung disease. You will then undergo tests such as chest x-rays, CT scans and lung function tests, which will assist a specialist in his/her diagnosis.
There is currently no treatment available to cure asbestosis, but there are steps which can be taken to ease symptoms.
The prognosis of asbestosis is that people can live for many years. However because the condition gets worse over time, people will need an increased amount of treatment as they age, in order for them to live as comfortable as possible.
People who have asbestosis have a higher risk of developing other serious conditions and diseases, such as: