Asbestosis affects every patient differently, but many patients with asbestosis can live many decades with this type of respiratory disease. The life expectancy of someone with asbestosis will largely depend on their overall health, how much exposure to asbestos they received, and how well they respond to treatment.
Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease that occurs following exposure to asbestos. Asbestosis is noncancerous pulmonary fibrosis caused by the thickening of lung tissue when asbestos fibers become trapped in the lungs. The Mayo Clinic explains how prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers causes scarring in the lung tissue, leading to respiratory distress and shortness of breath because of the damage to the lungs.
As with any disease, asbestosis symptoms can range from mild to severe. However, in almost every case, symptoms do not present until several years, or even decades, after asbestos exposure.
Asbestosis vs. Mesothelioma
Many people have heard that asbestos causes mesothelioma, a type of cancer for which there is no cure. Mesothelioma patients typically do not discover that they have this cancer until it has already spread significantly or grown in the body, resulting in a decreased life-expectancy prognosis after the initial diagnosis.
Asbestosis is neither mesothelioma nor cancer. Asbestosis is a respiratory disease that, like mesothelioma, results from the inhalation of asbestos fibers. However, the life expectancy of someone with asbestosis is typically much higher than someone diagnosed with mesothelioma. Every case will have its own set of facts and circumstances, but patients with asbestosis can live many years, or even decades, with this respiratory disease.
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Symptoms of Asbestosis
While many asbestosis patients will live longer than those diagnosed with mesothelioma, they still face significant challenges when a patient must live with this disease. Asbestosis causes severe respiratory distress and can significantly impact the patient’s lung function, thus making simple breathing difficult. The American Lung Association describes some of the symptoms of asbestosis:
- Clubbing of fingertips and toes (digits appear wider and rounder than usual).
- Persistent dry cough.
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest tightness or pain in the chest.
- Loss of appetite or weight loss.
Again, it is essential to remember that many of these symptoms have benign medical explanations not related to asbestosis. Long-term exposure to asbestos that develops into either asbestosis or mesothelioma typically does not appear in patients until decades after their initial exposure.
Visiting with a medical professional will help you diagnose your illness and develop a treatment plan that accounts for your specific medical symptoms and condition. Remember, it is always important to visit your health care provider as soon as possible. Several treatments could help those suffering from asbestosis experience a higher quality of life.
Risk Factors for Developing Asbestosis
Many people suffered exposure to asbestos without their knowledge. Some workers who could have been exposed to asbestos include:
- Asbestos mine workers
- Auto mechanics
- Aircraft mechanics
- Boiler operators
- Railroad workers
- Mill and refinery workers
- Building construction workers
- Shipyard workers
While every case is different, those workers who had more exposure to asbestos over a more extended period have a higher chance of developing asbestosis and other asbestos-related medical conditions. Additionally, family members who lived in the same home as workers in asbestos-related industries also have an increased risk of developing asbestosis from asbestos fibers on clothing getting released in the residence.
Life Expectancy of Someone with Asbestosis
While people diagnosed with asbestosis likely have a higher life expectancy than those diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is important to note that the diagnosis of asbestosis does increase the risk of developing lung cancer in the future. Additionally, because asbestosis has no cure, Healthline explains that patients might need medications to loosen congestion in the lungs, supplemental oxygen, or even a lung transplant, depending on the severity of the asbestosis.
Asbestosis can unfortunately also lead to the development of malignant mesothelioma. Smoking only complicates these respiratory medical conditions. Other types of medical conditions that could develop as your asbestosis progresses include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs). Every person who receives an asbestosis diagnosis will have different life expectancy rates, but many patients live many years or even decades following their diagnosis.
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Consider How an Asbestos Attorney Can Help You
If you received a diagnosis of asbestosis, it is unfortunately because you likely suffered prolonged exposure to asbestos many years or decades ago. As a result, you have the legal right to pursue compensation from any negligent party that exposed you to asbestos without your knowledge. Consider visiting with our legal team at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 614-2067 to help you learn how an asbestos attorney can help you with your case.