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While today we understand that asbestos can have a dramatic impact on our quality of life and health, for many decades it was considered a “wonder” material and was used extensively in dozens of products and materials. The result is that we can be exposed to this harmful substance in a myriad of locations and ways. When people think of asbestos-related illnesses, often the first to come to mind is mesothelioma. Others, however, might think of Asbestosis. Many conflate the two as being one and the same, however, there are major differences between these two illnesses.
UNDERSTANDING WHAT ASBESTOSIS IS
Generally speaking, asbestosis is a disease that largely affects the respiratory tract. This diseases is chronic and gets worse with time. Like mesothelioma, asbestosis is the end result of exposure to asbestos. The fibers that make up asbestos products, like insulation or paneling, can scar the insides of the lungs when they are inhaled. These scars stiffen the insides of your lungs, making it difficult for them to expand and contract normally. Despite the best guesses and studies of researchers, there’s no clear understanding of just how much asbestos that an individual has to be exposed to in order to contract or develop asbestosis. While this disease shares many traits with mesothelioma, it differs in that it is not cancerous. However, asbestosis may lead to lung cancer at a later date.
RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ASBESTOSIS
Patients who develop asbestosis report a series of signs and symptoms that are similar to other asbestos-based illnesses. These common signs and symptoms include things like weight loss, recurring chest pain, chronic coughing, and a constant shortness of breath. More advanced symptoms and signs may include heart problems and a sense of tightness in the chest. Patients may also show signs of clubbing in the fingers and toes. Clubbed toes and fingers may appear wider, flatter, and rounder than normal. Clubbing is caused by the lack of oxygen that is being introduced into the body’s blood supply, which is a result of the lungs being scarred by the asbestos fibers.
TREATMENTS AND CURES FOR ASBESTOSIS
Currently, there is no known cure for asbestosis. The best treatment for asbestosis is prevention. Avoid contact or spending time with asbestos. Should you contract asbestosis, your doctor may be able to help limit the signs and symptoms by providing you with respiratory treatment options. When managed properly, a patient with asbestosis can live for decades after their diagnosis.
UNDERSTANDING WHAT MESOTHELIOMA IS
Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs, and can, in some cases, also affect the lining of the heart, abdomen, and testicles. This disease is the result of prolonged exposure to asbestos-based products. Unlike asbestosis, which is the scarring of the lungs, mesothelioma causes dozens of tiny cancerous growths spreading across one lung, and then slowly infesting the other lung. Again, it is unknown just how much exposure to asbestos is needed to develop mesothelioma.
RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF MESOTHELIOMA
Externally, mesothelioma displays very similarly to asbestosis. The onset of symptoms of mesothelioma can occur very rapidly, and can dramatically worsen if the patient continues to be exposed to asbestos. Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma include pronounced weight loss, pain and tightness in the chest, a chronic cough, and difficulty in taking deep breaths and shortness of breath. These symptoms often worsen quickly, leading to other issues like anemia, general muscle fatigue, and fever.
TREATMENTS AND CURES FOR MESOTHELIOMA
Unlike asbestosis, which can be managed, and lived with for years, or even decades after the diagnosis, mesothelioma patients are often given a prognosis of just a few months to live. This is largely due to the difficulty of identifying the illness in the first place. Mesothelioma is a relatively rare disease, meaning that there is no dedicated treatment method for it. Additionally, mesothelioma has responded poorly to the treatment options that many specialists have tried so far. The goal of treating mesothelioma then is to make the patient’s remaining time as comfortable as possible.