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What is asbestosis and how does it affect the lungs?

Many people in North Carolina have been exposed to airborne asbestos fibers as they worked in the construction and shipbuilding and other industries that used the mineral as an insulating material. Medical science has established that exposure to asbestos-containing products can cause lung cancer, pleural mesothelioma and asbestosis. Mesothelioma is an especially vicious form of cancer that begins when asbestos fibers lodge in the pleura, tissue that covers the lungs. Lung cancer needs no further description. But what is asbestosis? How does it affect the lungs?

Like mesothelioma and lung cancer, asbestosis is caused by the inhalation of airborne asbestos fibers. Before the hazards of asbestos were widely known, many workers breathed air that contained large numbers of asbestos fibers. When these fibers are inhaled, they lodge in the alveoli in the lungs, the tiny sacs that exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide in the blood. Asbestos fibers can irritate and cause scarring of the alveoli tissues. This irritation and scarring stiffens the lung tissue and makes breathing difficult. As the disease progresses, more and more tissue becomes scarred, until the lungs are unable to expand and contract normally.

Symptoms of asbestosis included shortness of breath, persistent coughing, loss of appetite, thickening of fingers and toes, weight loss and chest tightness and pain. Asbestosis by itself is not usually fatal, but it can increase the risk of lung cancer.

Anyone who may been subject to asbestos product exposure and who exhibits some or all of the above symptoms may wish to seek competent medical advice. If asbestosis is the diagnosis, a visit with an attorney who specializes in asbestos cases can provide a helpful evaluation of the situation and an estimate of the likelihood of obtaining damages from the parties who are responsible for the asbestos exposure.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "Asbestosis," Accessed on Aug. 31, 2015

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