Asbestos Related Disorders

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Understanding COPD

What is asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a process of lung tissue scarring caused by asbestos fibers. Because many other diseases also lead to lung scarring, other causes must be excluded first when a patient is found to have lung scarring (pulmonary fibrosis). Patients with particular X-ray findings or biopsy results must also have a remote history of asbestos exposure and a characteristically delayed development of the condition in considering asbestosis as a diagnosis. Smoking appears to increase the frequency and/or the rate of progression of asbestosis, possibly by preventing the efficient elimination of inhaled fibers from the airways.

What are symptoms and signs of asbestosis?

The clinical symptoms usually include slowly progressing shortness of breath and cough, often 20 to 40 years after exposure to asbestos. Breathlessness advances throughout the disease, even without further asbestos inhalation. In the absence of cigarette smoking, sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs) production and wheezing are uncommon. The exception is workers who have been exposed to very high concentrations of asbestos fibers. Those workers may also develop symptoms as soon as 10 years after exposure. Other indications of asbestosis include abnormal lung sounds on examination, changes in the ends of the fingers and toes ("clubbing"), a blue tinge to the fingers or lips ("cyanosis"), and failure of the right side of the heart ("cor pulmonale").

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/7/2015

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