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Asbestos in the Lungs: Treating Asbestosis and its Long-term Effects

Asbestos in the Lungs: Treating Asbestosis and its Long-term Effects

Asbestosis occurs when asbestos fibers cause scarring in your lungs. These scars limit your breathing and disturb the oxygen’s ability to enter your bloodstream. But before understanding how to treat asbestosis and its long-term effects, let us look at some of the facts, common symptoms, and risk factors of asbestosis.

Treating asbestosis: Facts about asbestosis

  • Asbestosis is also known as interstitial pneumonitis and pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Miners and workers who install or remove asbestos are at higher risk of asbestosis.
  • This lung disease takes years to develop and can be deadly.
  • According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, there are no safe levels of asbestos exposure.
  • Smoking can increase the risk of lung cancer in asbestosis patients.
  • There is no permanent cure for this condition but treating asbestosis can relieve the symptoms and slow down its progression.

Hence, it is important to know the symptoms and asbestosis treatment options for its long-term effects.

Treating asbestosis: Common symptoms of asbestosis

Breathing in asbestos fibers over the years can lead to scars in the lungs. Common symptoms that you are likely to see are as follows:

  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Chest or shoulder pain
  • Swollen fingertips (in advanced cases)
  • Fatigue
  • Breathing issues

Treating asbestosis: Who is at risk of developing asbestosis?

Millers, miners, manufacturers, and workers who install or remove asbestos are at risk of asbestosis. Others include:

  • Shipyard workers
  • Aircraft and auto mechanics
  • Electricians
  • Building construction workers
  • Refinery and mill workers
  • Asbestos miners
  • Railroad workers
  • Boiler operators

Excess exposure to asbestos increases the risk of asbestosis and lung damage. Therefore, when you see such symptoms, visit your doctor immediately, and get prescribed medicines and asbestosis treatment suggestions.

Treating asbestosis and its long-term effects

There is no permanent solution for asbestosis. However, there are medicines and treatments that can treat asbestosis and its long-term effects. These remedies can help control or reduce its symptoms.

Asbestosis treatment and surgery that your doctor may suggest are as follows:

Medicines

Doctors might recommend a number of medicines that can relieve breathing issues and symptoms of asbestosis. Your doctor may suggest OTC cough syrups and other medicines like bronchodilators.

Supplemental oxygen

Your doctor may prescribe supplemental oxygen to help you in supplying enough air into your lungs. Oxygen passes from tanks via plastic tubing that has two prongs that fit into your nostrils. You may also use an oxygen mask. This is called oxygen therapy.

You may need supplemental oxygen for advanced asbestosis.

Pulmonary rehabilitation for treating asbestosis

Your doctor may advise a pulmonary rehabilitation program for you. This offers awareness about the condition and exercise programs like breathing and relaxation techniques. These programs and sessions help to improve overall health and discuss better ways to improve your physical activity habits.

These programs are designed in such a way that you and other asbestosis patients with chronic lung conditions maintain optimal activity levels.

Diagnostic surgery

Usually, doctors order CT scans and X-rays. But, doctors may also order a biopsy to rule out a lung tumor or mesothelioma. This is more likely to happen when a patient’s X-ray shows a nodule or lesion that may be cancerous. However, when a doctor is not able to rule out if the nodule or lesion is cancerous from the X-ray film, they may order a biopsy.

Your pathologist may ask for a tissue sample via different methods such as:

Needle aspiration

Your doctor will insert a hollow needle into your chest and into the tumor to get a section of the tissue. The removed tissue is then sent for analysis.

Thoracentesis

Your doctor will insert a hollow needle into your chest wall and into the space between your lungs and the chest. Your doctor will draw a sample of the fluid and send it for analysis.

Mediastinoscopy

Your doctor will take tissue samples from your windpipe through an incision in your neck.

Apart from these diagnostic surgeries, your doctor may perform a biopsy if you are at a higher risk of developing lung cancer or mesothelioma.

Palliative treatment

Although thoracentesis can help doctors to detect mesothelioma or lung cancer, using this procedure may also have a palliative use in treating asbestosis.

Sometimes, this lung disease can be accompanied by or cause pleural effusion. Pleural effusion is the condition where the fluid gets collected between the lungs and chest walls. Once the excess fluid is removed, your lungs start to work efficiently and relieve chest pain.

Alternative asbestosis treatment

Your doctor may suggest alternative treatments to provide relief. They may recommend herbal medicine, meditation, acupuncture, and massage therapy. Your doctor may recommend dietary improvements and mental health counseling, helping any treatment to work effectively.

While none of these alternatives offer a cure for asbestosis, many of them may ease pain, increase pulmonary function, and reduce inflammation. These are best done only with your doctor’s advice and supervision.

Lung transplant

In severe cases, your doctor may order a lung transplant.

In a lung transplant, the surgeon removes both or one of the lungs and replaces it with a donor’s lungs.

Doctors may order a lung transplant when asbestosis patients also have severe lung diseases like lung cancer or emphysema. However, before undergoing the transplant, the patient has to go through extensive tests and screenings to determine if the surgery can be successful or not.

Treating asbestosis: Lifestyle changes to prevent asbestosis

Try these lifestyle changes to prevent asbestosis and its long term effects:

  • Prevent asbestos exposure.
  • Wear protective gear when working with or when exposed to asbestos or any chemicals.
  • Wash your hands properly, especially before eating your food.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Follow the pulmonary rehabilitation program recommended by your doctor.
  • Work out regularly or be physically active to maintain your health.
  • Drink enough water.
  • Meditate or perform breathing exercises daily to improve your breathing pattern.
  • Use prescribed medications regularly.
  • Get vaccinations against flu and pneumonia.

Home remedies to treat asbestosis and its long-term effects

Some home remedies can help you manage the symptoms of asbestosis and its long term effects like cough, breathing problems, and fatigue.

  • Ginger – As ginger has anti-inflammatory properties, it can help in relieving symptoms of cold, cough, nausea, and vomiting. However, it is best used with medical advice, particularly before and after surgery.
  • TurmericTurmeric contains a potent antioxidant called curcumin. It can help reduce inflammation and is considered useful for improving general health.
  • Moringa Tree – Research suggests that moringa can help relieve breathing difficulties, cough, fever, and sore throat, however medical advice must be followed.

As you may be under medical treatment for asbestosis or its long-term effects, it is best to consult your doctor before taking any home remedies or any other medications.

Key takeaway

Asbestosis occurs when asbestos fibers cause scarring in your lungs. People who work in industries that expose them to asbestos are most at risk. If you see symptoms related to asbestosis, visit the doctor’s clinic immediately to learn more about treating asbestosis.

As said, asbestosis may not have a permanent solution now, but it has treatment options that relieve symptoms. Follow medical advice to treat your condition and get lifestyle management suggestions from your doctor to ensure this lung condition doesn’t get worse.

Learn about Other Respiratory Issues here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Nikita Bhalla Updated Jul 01
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel