Asbestosis refers to a chronic and potentially life-threatening condition triggered by extended exposure to airborne asbestos fibers over several years. In contrast to other serious diseases associated with asbestos, it isn't considered a type of cancer. Instead, it brings about permanent damage to lung tissues through inflammation and scarring (fibrosis), eventually leading to impaired gas exchange between alveoli (air sacs) and bloodstream.
When asbestos particles become lodged deep inside the lungs, the body initiates immune responses against foreign elements, causing damaged areas to undergo fibrotic alterations, generating fibrous tissue. This process generates a honeycomb-like pattern throughout the affected regions of the lung. Over time, as more fibrous material forms, the once soft and pliable lung becomes increasingly rigid, making natural expansion and contraction during breathing challenging.
Initially, those with asbestosis might experience subtle indicators like mild shortness of breath, tightness around the chest, and persistent dry coughing. However, as the sickness advances, so too does the severity of these signs, ultimately leading to respiratory distress and hypoxemia (low levels of dissolved oxygen in arterial blood). At later stages, some patients may even need supplementary oxygen therapy to maintain acceptable oxygen saturation levels. Unfortunately, there exists no known remedy or treatment method capable of reversing existing damage brought upon by advanced asbestosis. Diagnosing this disease typically involves radiographic imaging techniques, such as chest x-rays, coupled with spirometry assessments that gauge how effectively the lungs transport gases between the atmosphere and bloodstream.