Nowadays, most people are aware of the deadly effect of asbestos exposure. Breathing in asbestos fibers is the cause of death of far too many Americans. Perhaps the most well-known asbestos-related disease is mesothelioma – but it is far from the only one. Here are some of the most common types of illnesses and conditions that asbestos exposure can cause.
Mesothelioma is caused when you breathe in airborne asbestos fibers, just like the other diseases. However, mesothelioma is not actually a condition of the lungs, but rather of the mesothelium – the membrane that lines your internal organs.
Asbestos-related mesothelioma most often occurs in the membrane surrounding your lungs, but can also occur in other parts of your body – such as in your lower abdomen.
There are many different substances and conditions that can cause cancer in the lungs – most commonly, smoking tobacco and asbestos exposure. Common symptoms include chest pain, coughing up blood, and difficulty breathing.
When the asbestos fibers enter your lung tissue, they cause scarring. Over time, the layers of scar tissue thicken, and your lungs lose their elasticity. This scarring is what causes the condition called asbestosis. Asbestosis is typically not immediately fatal, but it steadily builds over time, making it harder and harder for you to breathe properly.
Similar to asbestosis, asbestos fibers can also cause pleural plaques to form along the outside of the lungs. These are small areas of collagen tissue that form around embedded asbestos fibers, stiffening the lung and restricting breathing.
A pleural effusion is a condition in which the area in and around your lungs fills with fluid. In extreme cases, doctors will need to drain the fluid so that your lungs can expand properly when you breathe.
The effects of asbestos exposure are painful and potentially deadly, and they can be devastating for the victim and for the victim’s family. If you or someone you know has a history of asbestos exposure, do not hesitate to get screened for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses.