What are the top Asbestos-Related Diseases? There are various minerals used in different industries for their strength, malleability, and durability. Using these minerals and materials correctly can help companies produce long-lasting products and improve our lives immensely.
The 1930s saw a boom in a durable, essential new mineral known as asbestos. Asbestos was used in the military for construction, shipbuilding, and other heavy industries. These fibers could help strengthen cement and plastic, fireproof textiles, vehicles, and buildings, provide proper insulation against the elements, and provide soundproofing. For a while, it seemed that there was nothing that asbestos couldn’t do. The fibers soon found their way into household products too.
On the other side, many people who worked in close contact with the fibers began developing various, often fatal illnesses. Inhaling the fibers can be incredibly damaging and lead to various diseases. Below, we shall review some of the most common diseases that occur due to asbestos exposure.
There are various forms of cancer, some more common than others, with a variety of causes. Mesothelioma, however, is an incredibly rare form of cancer and one that occurs solely due to asbestos exposure. It is a cancer of the mesothelium, a protective lining that encases our organs. It is, unfortunately, an incredibly deadly and incurable form of cancer with a poor prognosis. Developing mesothelioma can be a case of ingesting or inhaling asbestos fibers. Once inside the body, these fibers can lodge inside organ linings and damage the tissue and cause scarring. In some cases, the damage can cause the tissue cells to become malignant and become cancerous.
Suppose you are working in the construction industry, shipbuilding, car repair, or other similar industries. In that case, you have a high risk of developing mesothelioma and other diseases. Furthermore, veterans are incredibly prone to developing this often fatal cancer because the military widely used asbestos for fireproofing. The symptoms of mesothelioma can differ based on where in the body cancer develops. There are some typical indications like fatigue, fever, difficulty breathing, fluid in the lungs or abdomen, and loss of appetite. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are some of the most common ways to treat mesothelioma.
Asbestosis is a non-cancerous inflammation and scarring of the lungs that occurs after asbestos inhalation. Asbestosis is more common in patients who have worked near the fiber for a long time, as it requires a buildup of asbestos fibers. Over time, microscopic shards of asbestos can get stuck in the lungs, often causing irreversible damage. The body secretes acids to help dislodge the foreign object but ends up damaging itself. The lungs may develop fibrosis, which limits the lung’s capacity to expand and contract during breathing. Therefore, one of the most common indicators of asbestosis is a slow onset of shortness of breath.
There is no cure for asbestosis. Patients can undergo oxygen therapy to relieve shortness of breath and undergo physiotherapy. Quitting smoking can also help.
The pleura are the delicate membranes that surround the lungs and facilitate easy breathing. The small amount of fluid in the pleura helps the lungs expand and contract smoothly while breathing. Pleural effusions occur when there is a buildup of excess fluid in the pleural membranes due to asbestos exposure. If the effusions aren’t severe, you won’t experience any symptoms. However, in moderate or severe effusions, you can suffer from shortness of breath, cough, fever, and pain when breathing in.
The second symptom indicates serious effusions, as your pleural membranes are inflamed enough to rub against each other as you breathe. Chest X-rays, ultrasounds, and CT scans are the most common ways to diagnose effusions. Effusions don’t usually occur independently but are a symptom of other underlying diseases that may come with asbestos damage to the lungs. Lung cancer, mesothelioma, and pulmonary embolism are common causes of pleural effusions.
Of all cancers, lung cancer remains at the top of all cancer-related deaths globally. Although mesothelioma and lung cancer occur in the same site, they are different. Lung cancer occurs inside the lung itself, where the cancerous cells form tumors. Cancer can metastasize quickly and spread all across the body. Although smoking may be the cause of lung cancer, asbestos exposure is yet another leading cause.
It can lead to shortness of breath, blood in sputum, hoarseness, weakness, wheezing, and chronic chest pain. If you have had asbestos exposure, smoking can significantly increase your risk of developing lung cancer. A biopsy, alongside CT scans and ultrasounds, can help diagnose this cancer timely.
Although asbestos may have its strengths, the risk it poses to humans far outweighs any of them. Working with asbestos will endanger not just your life but your family’s too, as you may unknowingly carry asbestos fibers home. Most of the illnesses that come with asbestos exposure are chronic and often fatal and impact your life quality immensely. If you feel that you have any of the symptoms of asbestos-related diseases, schedule an appointment with the doctor straight away. You may end up saving your life.
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