Asbestos is a group of minerals with thin microscopic fibers. Because these fibers are resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals and do not conduct electricity, asbestos has been mined and used widely in the construction, automotive, and other industries. Asbestosis is a type of pulmonary fibrosis caused by asbestos exposure typified by excess connective tissue in the lungs. Because the disease manifests in the lungs, common asbestosis symptoms include respiratory problems such as coughing, swelling in the neck or face, cracking sound when breathing, or difficulty swallowing.
A complete medical evaluation is needed before a proper asbestosis diagnosis can be made. This includes reviewing potential asbestos exposure, work history, symptoms and undergoing various tests and imaging scans that can detect lung abnormalities. Pulmonary function tests can be used to assess a patient's ability to inhale and exhale, and a computed tomography scan of the lungs can show flat, raised patches associated with advanced asbestosis.
Treatments focus on a patient's ability to breathe. Caused by an inhalation of asbestos fibers, asbestosis is a lung disease that, over time, creates labored and painful breathing. Lung tissues that are scarred from embedded fibers impede the natural breathing process. Treatments such as a humidifier, oxygen therapy, chest percussion or postural drainage may also be recommended to relieve symptoms of chest congestion, tightness and difficulty breathing. If a patient's symptoms are so severe that medications don't work, a doctor may recommend surgery to remove scar tissue.