Continued from: Asbestosis Overview
Asbestosis, also called interstitial fibrosis, is not a directly fatal asbestos lung cancer. It is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes significant scarring of the parenchymal tissue lining the lungs. Although not a malignant disease like mesothelioma, asbestosis is nonetheless a serious condition that can elicit a number of painful and debilitating symptoms.
The lungs are responsible for the oxygenation of the blood while carbon dioxide is removed and exhaled. The development of asbestosis and related parenchymal scarring inhibits this gas exchange process, making it more difficult to provide the body with adequate blood oxygenation.
Smokers who have been exposed to asbestos are more likely to develop asbestosis or one of the more serious asbestos diseases. Asbestosis sufferers who continue to smoke can further exacerbate their condition, making the treatments for asbestosis more difficult and significantly hampering day-to-day activity.
Like many of the asbestos-related diseases, there is no curative treatment that can be administered to asbestosis sufferers. The scarring that characterizes asbestosis is an irreversible turn of events that, in certain instances, can require the surgical removal of a lung judged to be too damaged to serve a purpose.
Asbestosis will forever impede a sufferer's lung functionality to some extent. As a result, asbestosis treatments are focused on providing victims with symptomatic relief through the use of palliative treatments.
Symptomatic treatment of a disease is otherwise known as palliation. The lung scarring associated with asbestosis is such that it can cause a significant decrease in a sufferer's total lung capacity (TLC). As a result, doctors often administer oxygen therapy to asbestosis sufferers in order to provide relief from the feeling of breathlessness.
Excessive lung scarring can also yield a buildup of mucous secretions that further inhibit lung capacity. As such, there are a number of palliative asbestosis treatments that are used to loosen and remove such secretions from the lungs. The most commonly used procedure is postural drainage.
Postural drainage uses gravity and specific body positions that keep the head in a lower position than the chest. The position results in the gravity-assisted removal of lung secretions.
Postural drainage procedures are typically performed in conjunction with another palliative technique called chest percussion. Chest percussion involves the physical clapping of the chest in order to loosen lung secretions prior to postural drainage.
Additionally, many asbestosis sufferers are treated with a number of drugs that are used to help thin secretion buildups and clear the peripheral airways in a manner similar to chest percussion. Such drugs are believed to be more effective than chest percussion and are therefore often used in conjunction with postural drainage asbestosis treatments.
[Page updated August 2009]