Asbestosis is, as its name suggests, caused by inhalation of asbestos fibres.
It is not a cancerous lung disease.
The underlying disease process of asbestosis is not yet fully understood, but
it appears that asbestos fibres in the lungs cause irritation and inflammation.
The body attempts to neutralize these foreign fibres in various complex ways,
and some or all of these processes lead to further inflammation and cell damage.
Eventually a fibrosis or scar tissue develops in the interstitial spaces around
the small airways and alveoli. This thickening and scarring prevents oxygen and
carbon dioxide from traveling between the alveoli and the blood cells, so
breathing becomes much less efficient.
Asbestosis often exists without any symptoms, and is then detected only by
x-ray findings. However, the symptoms of asbestosis typically include shortness
of breath and coughing. As the disease progresses, the symptoms can worsen. It
can be a progressive disease, meaning that it continues to progress even after
exposure to asbestos has stopped. In unusual cases it can be fatal.
The scarring and thickening can be seen on x-rays and CT scans. Also, if it
reduces the functioning of the lungs, asbestosis can be detected by a breathing
or pulmonary function test (PFT.)
Diagnosis can be made only when there is a history of asbestos exposure and
positive results from a clinical exam, chest x-rays, CT scans, and/or a
pulmonary function test (PFT.) It can also be conclusively identified through a
biopsy; click on A, B and C to see three microscopic slides of asbestos fibres
lodged in the lungs.
Asbestosis affects both lungs (it is bilateral) and, although it is mainly in
the lower fields of the lungs, it is usually widespread (diffuse.)
Serious asbestosis is usually caused by heavy exposure to asbestos, such as
sustained exposure over a period of years (e.g. a longtime worker at an asbestos
textile plant) and/or intense exposure during a shorter period (e.g. a worker in
the boiler and engine rooms of ships under construction in the Second World
This does not mean that everyone who was heavily exposed to asbestos gets
asbestosis, only that everyone who gets asbestosis was exposed to large
quantities of asbestos fibres.
The specific type of asbestos fibre to which the worker was exposed does not
seem to be significant in the development of asbestosis.
At the moment there is no cure or effective treatment for asbestosis. People
with asbestosis are also at high risk of developing lung cancer or mesothelioma.
SEE YOUR DOCTOR
This information should not be taken as a diagnosis in any way. If you have
symptoms of any of the asbestos related diseases, see your doctor immediately.
FURTHER INFORMATION AND ASSISTANCE
Consulting with a solicitor in relation to a possible claim for damages is
perceived as a daunting experience. This perception is often made worse when the
client has contracted an asbestos condition, and in particular one of a
malignant nature. However, it is important that you and your family are fully
aware of your rights so that an informed decision can be made.
It is critically important that you seek legal advice from a solicitor
experienced in Asbestos Litigation.
Please call AussieLegal on 1300 728 200 for assistance and a referral
to a recommended specialist law firm.