Asbestosis is a lung disease that results when tiny asbestos fibers are inhaled and become lodged in the air tubes in the lungs (bronchi), where they cause scarring. The inhalation of asbestos fibers can also cause the membrane encasing the lungs (pleura) to thicken, or tumors to develop in the pleura (mesothelioma) or in the sac lining the abdomen.
Asbestos inhalation is also associated with a form of lung cancer (bronchogenic carcinoma) in people who smoke. Nonsmokers who are exposed to asbestos are at no greater risk for asbestosis than nonsmokers who are not exposed.
Over time, the scars from asbestosis cause the lungs to become stiff, making breathing increasingly difficult. Up to 15 percent of people with asbestosis eventually die of respiratory failure.
How is asbestosis treated?
There is no cure for asbestosis. However, shortness of breath can be relieved with oxygen. In some cases, lung transplantation may be offered. People with asbestosis who smoke are encouraged to quit in order to reduce the likelihood of developing lung cancer.
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