Health Effects of Asbestos: 4 Things to Know
Your atmosphere plays a significant role in your health. The air you breathe, and the environment you expose yourself to will eventually affect your physical well-being. This is why asbestos-related diseases take the lead in complex illnesses. Asbestos is a microscopic fiber that you can quickly inhale and tends to accumulate within your body. This build-up can impact your organs, especially the lungs causing long-lasting damage from which there is no recovery.
While the US government may have limited the use of asbestos, it is still not wholly banned and is part of the industrial sector. One of the main reasons why asbestos got shortlisted as a critical building material was because of its tenacious properties. This mineral is fire, heat, and electricity-proof and highly durable, allowing it to get molded in any shape. However, despite asbestos being a significant source of profit for industrialists, this fiber leads to many health problems, the details of which are as follows:
1. Pleural Mesothelioma
Pleural mesothelioma refers to the cancer of the cells lining the lungs. Asbestos is the primary cause of this condition since these fibers are carcinogens and cause normal cells to start dividing uncontrollably. More than 90% of all mesothelioma diagnoses result in pleural mesothelioma. The signs and symptoms of this cancer include dry cough, severe chest pain, and shortness of breath. More than 3,000 cases of pleural mesothelioma are reported annually, with a life expectancy of less than a year.
Unfortunately, like most cancers, this disease is incurable, and even with the proper treatment, there’s a chance of remission. However, depending on the size and location of the tumor, a doctor will develop a treatment plan if a patient has mesothelioma. For example, if the cancer is limited to one lung lobe, that area can be removed with surgery, effectively eliminating cancer cells. But if the cells are spreading rapidly, the patient may need continuous chemotherapy and radiation sessions until the cells clear out.
Asbestosis is the scarring of the lung tissues because of prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers. It is a type of asbestos-related disease that is not cancer and a condition that isn’t as severe as mesothelioma. Asbestos fibers are natural irritants for your lungs. The pleural surface gets covered in surfactant, a clear fluid protecting the lungs. When asbestos enters your body, it causes an inflammatory reaction in your chest, causing you to cough intensely and your lung tissue to react strongly to the foreign body.
Consequently, this may lead to scar tissues building up between the lobes that harden and thicken with time. As scar tissue is inflexible, it reduces your lung capacity and prevents your air sacs from expanding, which can cause you to become breathless. You will also feel unusual symptoms like sharp pain in your chest, trouble breathing, tightness, and dry coughs. If you wish to get rid of this condition on time, you must seek help immediately.
Early stages of scarring are easy to treat. But if you delay the check-up, the tissues will get more complex and cause irreversible damage to your lungs. Most cases of asbestosis take at least twenty years to develop, but if you start getting routine examinations early, you can still save your lungs.
3. Pleural Plaques
Your lung has a two-layered membrane called the pleura, which surrounds it. So if these membranes get impacted, your lung will suffer damage. Pleural plaques are hard deposits that settle in between these membranes. Over time these plaques can calcify and become tough deposits that get detected. These deposits are also noncancerous, and most of them are benign.
Cases of pleural plaques go undetected because, unlike other asbestos-related diseases, your lungs can continue to thrive in pleural plaques, and you may not feel any symptoms of having them. The hardened tissue may not be enough to deter your air sacs from expanding with each breath, and it doesn’t impact your lung capacity. However, in rare cases, it’s best to get it looked at if you feel chest pain and develop a dry cough. Intense asbestos exposure may lead to other health ailments that may be more dangerous for you than these deposits.
4. Diffuse Pleural Thickening
There is another type of pleural thickening that gets caused by asbestos exposure. However, unlike pleural plaques, diffuse pleural thickening covers a much larger area and can impact both membranes at the same time. Diffuse pleural thickening is much harder and more painful than plaques. These are not small deposits; the minute your membranes start thickening, you’ll feel the symptoms immediately. The thickening is because of fiber strands covering the soft tissue, known as fibrosis.
As a result, you’ll cough, feel yourself get breathless fast, and need to get hooked to oxygen. The doctor may examine your lungs by doing an X-ray and a lung test to determine how much they’re able to expand. As the tissue hardens and becomes inflexible, you may struggle to breathe.
The diffuse pleural thickening also causes fluid to build up between the membranes leading to pulmonary effusion. This is a severe medical condition and can cause the patient to asphyxiate. Minute quantities of pleural effusion can get cured immediately, but if there is too much build-up, you may need to get wheeled into the ER.
You can never be too careful about your health. It’s hard to keep tabs on all the atmospheric pollutants that may impact you, which is why it is best to educate yourself on what substances pose the most risk. So when it comes to airborne fibers that can eventually build up on your body, nothing comes close to asbestos. This microscopic fiber can cause you great distress in the form of lung diseases.
Not only do you feel an intense irritation in your chest, but you can also end up with conditions like mesothelioma, asbestosis, pleural plaques, and diffusion, which are all complex to deal with on their way. The lungs are an essential part of your body necessary for sustaining your life.
Hence, you can never return to a healthy and fulfilling life if you get damaged and scarred. Your only savior is to get tested early and undergo routine screening exams, so you know what lies under the surface and get it treated immediately.