Asbestosis—Scarring of Lung Tissue From Asbestos Exposure
Effects of Asbestosis on Lung Function
Asbestos causes scarring of lung tissue and inflammation leading to asbestosis. Inhaled asbestos fibers reach the air sacs (alveoli) where oxygen is transferred into the blood. The lung’s immune system attempts to remove the foreign asbestos fibers with scavenger white blood cells (macrophages). In attempting to break down the asbestos fibers, the macrophages are ruptured and killed, attracting a scarring cell known as fibroblasts to the site. The result is the formation of scar tissue in the lungs, reducing the lung’s ability to deliver oxygen to the blood and remove carbon dioxide.
Asbestos Pleural Plaques and Pleural Thickening
Asbestos pleural disease results in scarring similar to asbestosis; however, asbestos pleural disease occurs in the thin lining between the lungs and chest wall known as the pleura, rather than within the lungs themselves. Pleural plaques are localized and well-defined areas of calcified pleural thickening. The ‘thickening’ is the body’s response to the presence of asbestos fibers. If the plaques harden, they are referred to as ‘calcified pleural plaques.’ Scarring that extends along the chest wall is called diffuse pleural thickening, a more constructive and serious condition than pleural plaques.
Asbestosis Diagnosis and Treatment
Asbestosis and asbestos pleural diseases progress slowly. Early symptoms may include shortness of breath and chest pain. Physicians may use x–rays, CT scans, breathing or pulmonary function tests (PFTs) to diagnose whether asbestosis or asbestos pleural disease is present. Individuals diagnosed with asbestosis and asbestos pleural plaques are also at significant risk for developing asbestos-caused lung cancer and mesothelioma, a fatal form of asbestos cancer.
Asbestosis is caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos exposure typically occurs in the ship, construction, trade, industrial, refinery, and automotive repair environments. If you have developed an asbestos-related disease, an asbestosis attorney may be able to assist you in recovering compensation for your injuries. Please contact Brayton Purcell LLP today for an evaluation of your potential asbestosis case.