Approximately 10,000 people in the United States die each year from asbestos-related diseases, according to the Environmental Working Group. That’s almost 30 deaths each day. The dangers associated with exposure to this deadly carcinogen are well known, yet its use is still not banned in the United States. In fact, almost every person living or working in Louisiana has come into contact with asbestos at some point because it is used in so many household, industrial, and automotive materials.
If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos, you are right to be concerned about your health. Be vigilant about identifying symptoms that could be signs of an asbestos-related disease or condition, and seek help immediately.
Common Diseases and Conditions Related to Asbestos Exposure
Pleural plaque: This is the most common condition associated with asbestos exposure. Pleural plaque, sometimes referred to as scarring, is formed when microscopic asbestos fibers are inhaled and cause the tissue around the lungs and diaphragm, called the pleura, to thicken and harden in spots. Most people with pleural plaque do not experience symptoms. However, in rare cases, pleural plaque can trap and compress part of the lung, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. In general, treatment for these benign spots is not required unless a patient is showing signs of other asbestos-related diseases.
Diffuse pleural thickening: Often referred to as DPT, diffuse pleural thickening occurs when the inhaled asbestos fibers cause the lining of the lungs to thicken to the point of preventing the lung from expanding and contracting properly. Symptoms may include difficulty breathing, chest pain, and even respiratory failure, according to a report in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology. Although diffuse pleural thickening cannot be reversed, doctors may choose to treat it with medication to provide symptom relief.
Pleural effusion: When asbestos fibers infiltrate the lining of the chest cavity and the lung, an excess of fluid may build up in the chest, causing pleural effusion. The National Library of Medicinelists pleural effusion symptoms as chest pains that are usually sharp and worsen when a person coughs or breathes deeply, shortness of breath or rapid breathing, coughing, fever, and hiccups. To reduce fluid build-up, a thoracentesis may be performed to drain the fluid. However, it is important to note that pleural effusion is often a sign of a more serious underlying problem.
Asbestosis: This chronic lung disease develops when a person inhales microscopic asbestos fibers that lodge in the lung tissue, causing scarring. The Mayo Clinic warns that symptoms of asbestosis can include shortness of breath, pain or tightness in the chest, a dry cough that you just can’t shake, lack of appetite, weight loss, and clubbing of fingers and toes (making them look rounder and wider than normal). There is no cure for asbestosis, but treatments can help slow the progression and make the patient more comfortable. Asbestosis treatments include: draining fluid from the chest; aerosol medicines; oxygen masks; and surgery.
Mesothelioma: This deadly cancer affects the mesothelium, which is the tissue that lines the chest and abdominal cavities, the lungs, and the organs in the abdomen. When microscopic asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, they can become lodged in this tissue lining, eventually causing cancer cells to attack. People can be diagnosed with mesothelioma 10 to 60 years after they were exposed to asbestos. The most common forms are pleural mesothelioma (found in the chest cavity and lungs) and peritoneal mesothelioma (found in the abdomen). Other types of mesothelioma are pericardial (found in the tissue around heart) and testicular. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and clinical trials.
Lung cancer: Exposure to asbestos in some cases has been shown to cause lung cancer, which is the most deadly form of cancer in the United States, according to the National Library of Medicine. In fact, pleural disease caused by exposure to asbestos has been linked to increased risk for lung cancer, the National Cancer Institute reports. Treatments for lung cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and other medications.
Round atelectasis (or folded lung): This type of lung collapse is specifically associated with asbestos exposure. It occurs with asbestos-related pleural effusion when the pleura (the tissue lining around the lung) contracts and thickens, and the lung itself shrinks, according to Radiopaedia.org. There is currently no treatment for round at atelectasis, the Polish Journal of Radiology reports.
What should I do if I’ve been exposed to asbestos?
It can take decades for asbestos-related diseases to develop. That’s why it’s so important to take charge of your health, identify potential symptoms early, and talk to your doctor immediately about your history with asbestos. Veterans, shipyard workers and shipbuilders, factory workers, construction workers, salt mine workers, and other industrial workers throughout Louisiana typically have faced the greatest exposure and thus should take serious precautions.
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, contact the Louisiana law firm of Neblett, Beard & Arsenault as soon as possible. Our attorneys represent asbestos victims across the state of Louisiana and can respond to your questions immediately, no matter where you live. Our goal is to help you chart a course of action and navigate the complicated legal system to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.