Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber that was used in insulation materials for much of the 20th century. In the 1970s, it was discovered that asbestos is a carcinogen, and its use was generally halted.
However, experts say that it’s safe to assume there is asbestos in all buildings constructed prior to 1980. There are also isolated events (like this steam pipe explosion that occurred last summer in New York City) that bring on potential asbestos exposure.
What makes conditions related to asbestos so serious is that there are no signs of harm until symptoms of a disease start to appear. Because of this, doctors urge that you know the signs of medical conditions related to asbestos exposure. Illnesses that are caught early have a better chance of being treated than ones that are detected later on.
Shortness of Breath
Inhaled asbestos fibers can cause scar tissue to form in the lungs. This can cause shortness of breath and is one of the most common signs of an asbestos-related condition.
Swollen fingertips (known as clubbing) is present in around 50 percent of asbestos-related illnesses. Clubbing makes the fingertips appear broader and rounder than usual.
Being more tired than usual is generally not a concern, but increased fatigue combined with a primary symptom such as shortness of breath or clubbing can be an indication that you may have an asbestos-related illness.
Asbestos exposure can cause inflammation in the lungs, which can lead to wheezing. If a non-smoker is wheezing, it could be a sign that they have an asbestos-related illness.
Unproductive Cough That Doesn’t Go Away
A persistent, dry cough can form due to the same scar tissue in the lungs that brings on shortness of breath.
Symptoms in Other Parts of the Body
Most of these issues affect the lungs, which makes sense because that’s where most asbestos-related diseases occur. Besides clubbing of the fingers, there are physical signs to watch for in other parts of the body. This includes abdominal swelling and distention, abdominal or pelvic pain, bowel obstruction, hernia, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, hoarseness, and difficulty swallowing.
What Can Doctors Do?
If you suspect that you were exposed to asbestos over a prolonged period of time, there are several tests doctors can order to keep track of your health and note any changes that are cause for concern.
These procedures include any or all of the following: chest X-ray, low-dose CT scan, spirometry, bronchoscopy, bronchoalveolar lavage, and pulmonary function tests.
Overall, around 20 percent of people who have had prolonged exposure to asbestos develop illnesses such as lung cancer, mesothelioma (a type of cancer that develops in the chest), and asbestosis (a persistent disease caused by the scar tissue that forms in the lungs).
Many state and federal programs offer compensation for those who were exposed to asbestos, especially through the workplace. These include state workers’ compensation programs and the Federal Employees’ Compensation Program. Medicare and Veterans Affairs (VA) services may also cover asbestos-related illnesses.
In addition to these programs, an attorney will be able to determine if anyone else may be culpable due to negligence. The personal injury attorneys at Stewart & Stewart are some of the most experienced in the Indianapolis area at handling asbestos cases. If you or a loved one is dealing with asbestos exposure or an asbestos-related illness, call us at 1-800-33-33-LAW or visit our website to put our experience to work for you.