Asbestosis

Written by Dr Claudia Pastides, 14th June 2019

Asbestosis is a thickening and scarring of the lungs due to inhaling asbestos fibers.

Asbestos was used in the 1970s to 1990s as a material for insulation, flooring and roofing. Although it is no longer used and the asbestos already out there in older buildings doesn’t cause any problems if left untouched, asbestos fibers are released when the material is damaged. So those working as electricians or demolition workers in buildings with asbestos are at risk of being exposed, especially if they spend years in such environments.

Causes

When asbestos dust is breathed in, the fibres go down the airways and into the lungs, where they gradually cause damage to the lungs over time.

People with asbestosis have a higher risk of developing a type of cancer called mesothelioma and lung cancer, so it is very important to take precautions against asbestosis.

Risk factors

The main risk factor is exposure to asbestos, from working in refurbishment, maintenance and other similar trades including:

  • Heating and ventilation engineers
  • Plumbers
  • Roofing contractors
  • Plasterers and more.

Have a look at the Health and Safety Executive website for more occupations at risk: http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/risk.html


Typical Symptoms

Typical symptoms of asbestosis include:

  • Feeling short of breath
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Feeling very tired
  • Chest or shoulder pain

Common Treatment
  • Inhaled oxygen to relieve symptoms
  • Medication to treat symptoms
  • Smoking cessation
  • Specialist treatment or surgery

When to speak to a doctor

Asbestosis can often be initially discussed via a digital consultation.The GP will likely then decide you need to arrange a face to face appointment so that your chest can be examined. Often you will be referred for a chest X-ray or have other lung tests arranged. To speak to one of our Babylon GPs, download the app and create an account today.


Prevention

Asbestosis risk can be managed and prevented by:

  • Taking safety measures to prevent exposure to asbestos
  • Consulting an expert to test for asbestos if you live in an older home
  • Vaccinations against lung infections, as those with asbestosis are more susceptible to chest infections


More information

Below are some links to websites offering support for people living with asbestosis and also links to details around entitlement to compensation:

The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum - http://www.asbestosforum.org.uk/index.asp

British Lung Foundation

Industrial injuries disablement benefit details - https://www.gov.uk/industrial-injuries-disablement-benefit

Lung Foundation, advice on compensation and benefits - https://www.blf.org.uk/support-for-you/asbestos-related-conditions/benefits-and-compensation


Please note that this material is for general information only and should never be used as a substitute for personalised medical advice provided during a consultation with a doctor.