5 Health Conditions Associated With Asbestos Exposure

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Asbestos is a natural mineral that has been used for decades because of its heat-resistant properties. However, it wasn’t until the late 20th century that its dangers to human health were discovered. Asbestos exposure has been linked to numerous diseases, some of which can be fatal. Despite its ban in many countries, asbestos is still present in many older buildings, putting many people at risk of exposure. This article will explore the health conditions associated with asbestos exposure, so you can understand the risks and take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.

  • Asbestosis

Asbestosis is a respiratory disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. The fibers can cause lung scarring, breathing difficulties, chest pain, and a persistent cough. Symptoms may take 10-20 years to appear after asbestos exposure, making it difficult to diagnose the disease. In severe cases, asbestosis can lead to complete respiratory or heart failure. Currently, there is no cure for asbestosis, and treatment options are limited to managing the symptoms of the disease.

Treatment for asbestosis and other asbestos-related diseases can be expensive, and the cost of medical care can quickly add up. In many cases, those suffering from these diseases may not have the financial resources to cover these costs alone. Here’s where an asbestos trust fund can be helpful.

An asbestos trust fund is a source of compensation established by manufacturers of asbestos-containing products to compensate those who have developed asbestosis and other related diseases.

  • Mesothelioma¬†

Mesothelioma is a rare disease affecting the lungs, abdomen, and heart lining. Approximately 70 to 80 percent of mesothelioma cases are caused by primary asbestos exposure. When a person inhales asbestos fibers, they can become trapped in the body and cause inflammation and scarring over time. While relatively uncommon, mesothelioma can be extremely dangerous and fatal if left untreated.

Symptoms of mesothelioma may take years to develop and can be challenging to diagnose. They can include shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, and weight loss. Treatment options for mesothelioma typically include a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. However, treatment effectiveness depends on the stage of the disease at the moment of diagnosis. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is usually diagnosed in its later stages, making treatment more difficult and reducing the chances of survival.

Protecting yourself from further asbestos exposure is crucial if you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. Specific industries, such as construction, shipbuilding, automotive repair, and manufacturing, have a higher risk of asbestos exposure. Suppose you are employed in one of these industries. In that case, you must follow proper safety protocols and wear appropriate protective gear such as respirators, gloves, and safety glasses.

  • Pleural effusion

Pleural effusion is a condition that occurs when excess fluid accumulates in the pleural cavity, the space between the lungs and chest wall. It is a common health risk associated with asbestos exposure, as asbestos can cause inflammation and scarring of the pleura. Around 1.5 million people in the United States are diagnosed with pleural effusion yearly.

Pleural effusion can cause various symptoms, including chest pain, hiccups, fever, shortness of breath, and coughing. The severity of the symptoms can depend on the amount of fluid present in the pleural cavity. In some cases, pleural effusion may be asymptomatic and only discovered during routine medical examinations.

Diagnosis of pleural effusion typically involves a physical exam, imaging tests, and a fluid analysis. Treatment may include draining the excess fluid from the pleural cavity, often using a needle and a catheter. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and prevent fluid from accumulating.

  • Pleural plaques

Pleural plaques are areas of thickened, calcified tissue that form on the pleura, the thin layer of tissue that lines the inside of the chest wall and surrounds the lungs. They are a common sign of asbestos exposure and can develop in individuals exposed to asbestos fibers over a prolonged period.

While pleural plaques are usually considered benign, they can be a sign of potential future health problems. Studies have shown that individuals with pleural plaques may face a greater risk of developing other asbestos-related diseases, such as asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Symptoms of pleural plaques may include chronic chest pain, shortness of breath, and persistent coughing. Diagnosis of pleural plaques typically involves a chest x-ray, CT scan, or other imaging tests. If pleural plaques are discovered, you must notify your physician of any history of asbestos exposure. This can help inform further medical monitoring and potential future treatment.

While pleural plaques do not require treatment, individuals with pleural plaques should be vigilant about monitoring for any new symptoms and should continue to undergo routine medical exams.

  • Pulmonary hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension is a condition that affects arteries in the lungs and on the right side of the heart. These arteries develop an increased amount of muscle in the wall of the blood vessels, leading to various health risks. While it is not a common consequence of asbestos exposure, it is a potential risk for individuals exposed to high levels of asbestos fibers over a prolonged period.

Asbestos fibers can cause lung scarring and inflammation, leading to decreased oxygen uptake and increased pulmonary artery pressure. Over time, this increased pressure can cause the right side of the heart to work harder, potentially leading to heart failure and other complications. Symptoms of pulmonary hypertension may include fatigue, dizziness, and fainting. However, many of these symptoms may be nonspecific and can be attributed to other health conditions, making diagnosis difficult.

Several options are available to patients when treating pulmonary hypertension caused by asbestos exposure. One commonly used treatment method is medication, with drugs such as epoprostenol, treprostinil, and sildenafil showing promise in improving lung function and reducing pulmonary artery pressure.

In addition to medication, lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, and weight management can also help effectively manage symptoms of pulmonary hypertension. Patients may also be prescribed oxygen therapy, which can help to increase oxygen levels in the blood and improve breathing.

Conclusion

Asbestos exposure can lead to severe health conditions such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, pleural effusion, plaques, and pulmonary hypertension. While treatment options are available, prevention is critical. Taking proper safety precautions can minimize the risk of asbestos exposure. By being proactive and informed about the dangers of asbestos, we can work towards a healthier, safer future.

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