Continued from: Asbestosis Overview
The symptoms of asbestosis (interstitial pulmonary fibrosis) are somewhat similar to those associated with a number of related diseases like asbestos lung cancer, malignant pleural mesothelioma, pneumonia and diffuse pleural thickening.
The most common presenting symptom associated with the development of asbestosis is the onset of a feeling of breathlessness. Asbestosis sufferers experience scarring of the parenchymal tissue of the lung; the scarring decreases the lungs' ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood through a reduction in total lung capacity.
Additional symptoms of asbestosis can include:
- Chronic cough
- Decreased tolerance for physical activity
- Finger clubbing: finger tip enlargement; round or club-like shaping of the fingers
- Chronic chest pain (associated with fluid buildup)
- Congestive heart failure
The presence of asbestosis symptoms can help yield a preliminary diagnosis of asbestosis. Like malignant mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer, asbestosis is a latent disease that can take as many as 30 to 40 years to fully develop and become symptomatic. Chronic asbestosis symptoms like chest pain and coughing typically force sufferers into scheduling an appointment with their doctor for a checkup.
Following a preliminary physical checkup, doctors will typically use diagnostic imaging devices (CT scan, x-ray, MRI) in order to view detailed images of the chest and lungs. Asbestosis is usually diagnosed after scarring is seen in the interstitial lung tissue. In some cases, doctors may order a biopsy so as to ensure that the parenchymal scarring is not merely a symptom of a larger and more serious problem. Asbestosis can often be confused with both lung cancers and pleural mesothelioma based on its location and presenting symptoms.
Asbestosis is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that is linked exclusively with exposure to asbestos, a metamorphic mineral that has proven to be a causative factor for a number of serious health problems. While asbestosis is not as serious an asbestos disease as asbestos lung cancer, laryngeal cancer or malignant mesothelioma, it is nonetheless incurable and can significantly impede a sufferer's total lung capacity (TLC) over time.
[Page updated May 2006]