Many North Carolinians are aware that asbestos can cause several diseases that afflict the lungs, but they are often unaware of the symptoms or effects of these diseases. We have written at length in other posts about pleural mesothelioma, an especially virulent form of lung cancer that is caused almost exclusively by asbestos product exposure. In this post, we will explore another asbestos-caused disease - asbestosis.
Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease that is caused by prolonged exposure to airborne asbestos fibers. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they frequently lodge in the tiny sacs in the lungs called alveoli. Alveoli exchange airborne oxygen for carbon dioxide in the blood stream. Asbestos fibers can irritate and scar the lung tissue. The resulting scar tissue causes the lungs to stiffen, making breathing difficult. In the normal progression of asbestosis, the scarring of lung tissue increases to an extent where the lungs cannot expand and contract normally.