Asbestosis is a chronic respiratory disease in which you develop permanent scarring of your lung tissues. Unlike mesothelioma, asbestosis is not itself a cancer. Nevertheless it can lead to a variety of malignant conditions, including mesothelioma.
As a construction worker, you face a substantially higher risk of developing asbestosis than workers in other fields do. Why? Because, unfortunately, many of the products and materials you work with every day contain asbestos. When asbestos breaks down, it does not produce dust like most substances. Instead, it produces microscopic fibers that you then unknowingly inhale or ingest. Over time, your lungs become full of these sharp fibers that scar them. The ultimate result is asbestosis, an incurable and debilitating disease.
Those most at risk
Although performing any construction job puts you at risk for developing asbestosis, your greatest risk comes from working the following types of jobs:
- Stonemason or bricklayer
- Floor or wall tile installer
- Drywall installer or plasterer
- Electrician or plumber
It may take years before doctors diagnose you with asbestosis because its symptoms mimic those of so many other conditions. For instance, common asbestosis symptoms include the following:
- Frequent heavy coughing, sometimes producing blood
- Frequent chest pain
- Frequent shortness of breath
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Sudden fevers of 101 degrees or higher
- Unexplained weight loss
Asbestosis diagnosis and prognosis
By the time your doctor actually diagnoses you with asbestosis, you could have been inhaling and ingesting asbestos fibers for over 20 years and consequently have lost 25% or more of your lung capacity.
As stated, no cure exists for asbestosis. The best your doctor will be able to do is to prescribe medications and breathing treatments that will help minimize your symptoms and therefore your discomfort.
Good news, however, exists. Unlike mesothelioma patients whose life expectancy, once diagnosed, amounts to somewhere between four and 12 months, you can live for decades after your asbestosis diagnosis.