This is a form of pneumoconiosis or dust disease of the lung caused by asbestos. The usual time from first exposure to first clinical signs of asbestosis is 10 to 20 years.
Asbestosis is an inflammatory reaction in the lungs brought about by inhaled asbestos fibres. Inflammation occurs throughout the tissues of the lungs and leads to scarring (fibrosis).This process results in stiffening of the lung tissues, which makes the work of breathing harder, and impairment of the uptake of oxygen from the air into the blood. The main symptom of asbestosis is breathlessness on exertion.The diagnosis is made from a history of asbestos exposure, the presence of crackling noises in the chest heard with a stethoscope, the presence of abnormal shadowing on the chest x-ray and abnormalities of lung function tests.
There is no treatment for asbestosis. Asbestosis tends to progress with the passage of time.
Click here to watch Professor Bruce Robinson talk about the diagnosis and treatment of asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis.