Continued from: Asbestosis Overview
An asbestosis prognosis can be determined following diagnosis of the condition. When compared with the likes of the more serious, malignant asbestos diseases (malignant mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer, asbestos larynx cancer), an asbestosis prognosis is typically more positive, though it is important to read up about mesothelioma prognosis to have an accurate comparison between these two dangerous diseases.
Like most other asbestos diseases, asbestosis (pulmonary fibrosis) is latent and can take decades to fully develop and become symptomatic. Prolonged exposure to asbestos puts someone at increased risk of developing a case of asbestosis; however, it is unclear exactly how much exposure constitutes a significant risk.
An asbestosis prognosis can be determined following diagnosis of the asbestos lung cancer. The development of asbestosis symptoms, including coughing, breathlessness and chest pain, typically prompts a sufferer to seek medical attention. After an initial physical assessment of the patient, a doctor will employ the use of a chest imaging scan (x-ray, MRI, CT scan) so as to view the lungs. The scarring of the parenchymal tissue of the lungs that is associated with the onset of asbestosis can be clearly seen via such chest scans. An asbestosis prognosis depends heavily on the amount of scarring that has occurred.
Minor cases of asbestosis may simply require the use of bronchodilators and other medications designed to thin lung secretions and improve breathing. Other palliative asbestosis treatments, such as postural drainage and chest percussion, are often used to loosen mucous buildups inside the lungs, further improving breathing. If a patient is hampered by minor fluid buildup, drainage can help to provide relief from chest pain.
Serious cases of asbestosis may require continuous treatments. Significant lung scarring can cause a severe reduction in total lung capacity (TLC). While asbestosis itself is non-malignant and not directly fatal, its effects can be associated with eliciting secondary conditions that can result in death. For example, a significant reduction in total lung capacity can lead to congestive heart failure.
Asbestosis is associated with congestive heart failure because the heart has to work much harder to push blood through the damaged lungs. Over time, such overexertion of the heart muscles causes the vital organ to weaken, and fluid builds up in the lungs. This fluid buildup forces the heart to pump even harder. Over time, the heart weakens and becomes overworked to such an extent that it fails, causing death.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), there were approximately 550 deaths associated with asbestosis in 2001. These deaths were caused as a result of asbestosis complications.
Although asbestosis is an incurable lung disease, patients are able to live with the condition for many years without succumbing to its secondary effects. Palliative asbestosis treatments can help to limit the effects of the disease and improve sufferers' day-to-day lives; however, scarring of the lung tissue is an irreversible problem that will forever affect asbestosis patients.
[Page updated August 2009]