Asbestos is a group of minerals that are made up of thin microscopic fibers. These fibers are resistant to fire, heat, and chemicals. In addition, they do not conduct electricity. Asbestos have been mined and used commercially since the 1800s. It is used in products such as car brake shoes, ceiling and flooring tiles, plastics, adhesives, building materials, coatings, talc-containing crayons and vermiculate-containing garden products. However, asbestos exposure has been linked to lung disease as well as other medical conditions.
So, what are the risks associated with asbestos exposure and what you should do if you are exposed and how is it treated?
If asbestos containing products are disturbed, the thin fibers in the minerals are released into the air. When breathed in, these fibers can become lodged in the lungs and remain there for several years. Over the years, these fibers can accumulate in your lungs resulting in serious medical conditions like. Here are some of the health problems that you can develop as a result of asbestos exposure.
This is an inflammatory condition of the lungs that is characterized by shortened breath, coughs and eventual development of scars on the lungs making it difficult for the patient to breathe.
This is a rare form of cancer that affects the chest cavity, linings of the lungs and the abdomen Pleural plaques and effusions
Pleural plaques refer to the thickening that occurs in the membranes surrounding the lungs. Pleural effusions, on the other hand, refer to abnormal fluid collection between the lungs and the inside wall of the chest cavity.
Studies have also found a link between asbestos exposure and other forms of cancer like cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, kidney, throat, voice box, bladder, brains and gallbladder.
Asbestos exposure: Causes and associated risks
Most cases of asbestos exposure occur in the workplace. However, you can also develop asbestos poisoning through contact to heavily exposed family member. In addition, cases of mesothelioma have been reported in people living in close proximity to asbestos mines.
Several factors influence how asbestos poisoning can affect your life. These include:
Forms of asbestos
Asbestos come in different forms. While all forms of asbestos are considered hazardous, different types of fibers present in asbestos may be associated with different medical conditions. For instance, studies indicate that amphibole forms which have longer and more durable fibers are more lethal than chrysotile forms which are characterized by curly fibers.
Symptoms of asbestos poisoning
Respiratory and lung disease are the most common effects of asbestos poisoning. Apart from shortness of breath, here are the other symptoms of asbestos poisoning.
Diagnosing asbestos poisoning
Since many health problems share these symptoms, having these symptoms may not necessarily mean that you have asbestos related cancer or lung disease. Thus, it is important that you see your doctor if you experience these symptoms.
Diagnosing asbestos poisoning can take some time. The diagnostic process begins with a physical exam as well as a review of your medical history. During the diagnosis process, your doctor will seek to find whether you have other medical conditions and whether you have any history of asbestos exposure. Depending on the findings, your doctor may order the following tests:
If there are suspicions of asbestos related lung disease or cancer, then a biopsy will be necessary to confirm the diagnosis. A biopsy is used to detect asbestos fibers and /cancer in your system. A biopsy can be done in a number of ways depending on the location of the tissue to be screened.
Asbestos poisoning treatment options
Asbestos’ poisoning treatment of choice largely depends on the asbestos disease developed by the patient.
Asbestosis is a restrictive yet chronic lung disease that is caused by inhalation of asbestos fibers over time. It takes approximately 15 to 20 years to manifest its symptoms. Individuals suffering from this condition are more likely to develop pneumonia and bronchitis. Currently, there is no absolute cure for asbestosis. Its treatment begins with terminating exposure to any form of lung irritant. In addition, patients can manage asbestosis by taking annual flu vaccines. It is very important that you maintain clean surrounding if you have been diagnosed with asbestosis.
Lung cancer treatment
Lung cancer resulting from asbestos poisoning occurs when an individual is exposed to asbestos over a long period. Treatment depends on location of the cancer, tumor size and how much the cancer has spread. Treatment options include one, or a combination, of the following:
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lung lining, also referred to as the pleura. It takes between 30 to 40 years to develop and show its symptoms. It is one of the most painful and aggressive forms of cancer. Treatment options for mesothelioma include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and photodynamic therapy.
There is no way of preventing asbestos related illnesses from developing besides preventing exposure in the first place; however, you can protect yourself by taking certain proactive steps. In an event that you suspect asbestos poisoning, be sure to set up yourself for early medical examination. This will improve your chances of beating any asbestos related lung disease or poisoning.