What is Asbestosis?
Asbestosis is a respiratory disease that, like mesothelioma, is caused by the inhalation of microscopic asbestos fibers. But unlike mesothelioma, asbestosis is not a form of cancer. Rather, it is stiffness and scarring of the lungs caused by exposure to fibers. One of the reasons asbestosis is difficult to diagnose is that its symptoms are very similar to pulmonary fibrosis.
While asbestosis is not cancer, it can lead to an increased risk of developing lung cancer. People who have the asbestosis can also develop mesothelioma.
How Asbestosis and Mesothelioma Develop
Asbestosis develops when asbestos fibers lodge in the air sacs of the lungs, known as the alveoli. These sacs are where the lungs exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen. As the disease progresses, scarring and stiffness increase in the lungs. Mesothelioma, on the other hand, occurs when fibers become lodged in the lung lining.
There is also a substantial difference in the prognosis for both diseases. Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma are generally given anywhere from 4-12 months to live, while people with asbestosis can often live for several decades. However, asbestosis patients will typically experience a substantial decrease in their quality of life due to the progression of the disease.
There are several relatively conservative treatment options for someone with asbestosis, including antibiotics, pain medicine, inhalers and breathing tanks. Mesothelioma patients, however, will typically have to undergo intensive surgical procedures. In some severe cases of asbestosis, however, a lung transplant may be required.