Asbestos symptoms are indicators of the serious adverse health problems that are caused by dangerous levels of asbestos exposure. The Occupational Health & Safety Administration estimates that 1.3 million people are exposed to the dangerous of asbestos exposure every year in the work place and should be aware of symptoms of asbestos exposure that may indicate serious underlying health problems. People who work, or have worked, in the shipyard, factory, railroad, construction, automobile, and building industries in the last 60 years may be susceptible to developing asbestos symptoms.
Latency Period of Asbestos Symptoms
Most deadly diseases that are caused by asbestos exposure lie dormant for years, so it is possible to suffer from the ill effects of asbestos disease without any noticeable asbestos symptoms. Because of disease latency, asbestos symptoms might appear years - even decades - after initial asbestos exposure. Medical experts assign a latency period to malignant mesothelioma of thirty to fifty years. That’s one of the reasons the disease is so difficult to diagnose; the job where the exposure occurred in most instances ended decades prior to the health problems beginning.
The clinical manifestations for asbestos generally appear between twenty and forty years after the asbestos exposure has occurred, or begun. The fibrotic process that impacts the lung tissue in this disease maybe accelerated and is certainly exacerbated by smoking. Asbestosis, characterized by severe breathing restriction, develops in nearly half of all workers who have reached “occupational levels” of asbestos exposure.
Types of Asbestos Exposure Symptoms
The type of asbestos symptoms an individual experiences generally depends on the asbestos-related disease that has been developed. There are various types of asbestos-related conditions; the two most commonly associated with asbestos exposure are asbestosis and mesothelioma. However chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has reached epidemic proportions in the United States and is a condition that asbestos exposure has contributed to in thousands of cases.
Asbestosis symptoms commonly include these conditions:
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic cough
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty with physical exertion
Malignant mesothelioma generally develops in people over the age of sixty five and usually occurs in the chest cavity, arising in the pleura in sixty five to seventy percent of all cases. The other predominant location for mesothelioma cancer cases is the peritoneal lining of the organs in the abdominal cavity. It may also affect the pericardial lining of the heart, in rare cases.
Common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Tightness in the chest
- Persistent cough
- Weight Loss
Pleural effusion is also a common development with mesothelioma. This condition is caused by accumulation of excess fluid in the space between the lungs and the chest wall or diaphragm. It can be the cause of chest pain and reduced breathing capacity.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is characterized by abdominal swelling and pain. This symptom can also be the result of fluid accumulation – in this case, within the abdominal cavity. Thickening of the peritoneal tissue can lead to additional symptoms:
- Weight loss
- Obstructed bowels
- Fever and/or night sweats
If you or someone you love is experiencing any symptoms of asbestos exposure, you should visit your doctor right away.
- OSHA, U.S. Department of Labor, http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/
- European Journal of Cancer Prevention, Bianchi et al, 1997, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9237066
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/asbestos/respiratory_changes2.html
- National Institute of Cancer, http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Sites-Types/mesothelioma