Written By:
Last Modified April 22, 2022
This page features 5 Cited Research Articles
Fact Checked
Our fact-checking process begins with a thorough review of all sources to ensure they are high quality. Then we cross-check the facts with original medical or scientific reports published by those sources, or we validate the facts with reputable news organizations, medical and scientific experts and other health experts. Each page includes all sources for full transparency.
Reviewed

Asbestos.com is the nation’s most trusted mesothelioma resource

The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com has provided patients and their loved ones the most updated and reliable information on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure since 2006.

Our team of Patient Advocates includes a medical doctor, a registered nurse, health services administrators, veterans, VA-accredited Claims Agents, an oncology patient navigator and hospice care expert. Their combined expertise means we help any mesothelioma patient or loved one through every step of their cancer journey.

More than 30 contributors, including mesothelioma doctors, survivors, health care professionals and other experts, have peer-reviewed our website and written unique research-driven articles to ensure you get the highest-quality medical and health information.

About The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com

  • Assisting mesothelioma patients and their loved ones since 2006.
  • Helps more than 50% of mesothelioma patients diagnosed annually in the U.S.
  • A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
  • 5-star reviewed mesothelioma and support organization.
Learn More About Us

Testimonials

"My family has only the highest compliment for the assistance and support that we received from The Mesothelioma Center. This is a staff of compassionate and knowledgeable individuals who respect what your family is experiencing and who go the extra mile to make an unfortunate diagnosis less stressful. Information and assistance were provided by The Mesothelioma Center at no cost to our family."
Lashawn
Mesothelioma patient’s daughter
  • Google Review Rating
  • BBB Review Rating
Read Our Testimonials
Jump To A Topic

Common Asbestosis Symptoms

Common asbestosis symptoms affect a person’s ability to breathe, including chest pain, shortness of breath and a crackling sound in the lungs when breathing. But they may also present as other health problems, such as high blood pressure. 

The severity and frequency of asbestosis symptoms can vary at the time of diagnosis.

The most common symptoms of asbestosis include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Crackling sound in the lungs when breathing
  • Persistent, dry cough
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain or tightness in the chest
  • Blood in sputum
  • Swelling in the neck or face
  • Hypertension
  • Finger deformity
  • Loss of weight/appetite
Asbestosis Symptoms

Many of these symptoms can also be associated with pleural mesothelioma, the most common type of mesothelioma cancer. Other conditions that exhibit symptoms similar to asbestosis include lung cancer and pneumonia.

How Long Do Asbestosis Symptoms Take to Appear?

Asbestosis is a form of fibrosis that develops over a long period of time after exposure to asbestos fibers. Over time, scar tissue replaces normal lung tissue. An excessive amount of scar tissue can cause reduced pulmonary function.

During exposure, asbestos fibers are inhaled, and they can become lodged in lung tissue. The sharp, straight shape of the fibers makes them difficult for a body to dislodge and expel. Once in a body for a long period, the fibers cause irritation, inflammation and scarring, which cause symptoms that primarily affect the lungs.

In most asbestosis patients, symptoms develop within 20 to 30 years after being exposed to asbestos. If someone is exposed to asbestos for a long time, a decade or more, the latency period of symptom development is closer to 20 years.

2020 Mesothelioma Packet from the Mesothelioma Center
Free Mesothelioma Guide
Learn more about asbestos diseases in our comprehensive mesothelioma guide. Over 200+ pages covering treatment options, support, and more.

What Causes Symptoms?

Lung scarring, or fibrosis, is the direct cause of the coughing and shortness of breath symptoms most commonly associated with asbestosis.

As the lungs become scarred and inflamed over time, their ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide decreases, resulting in a reduction of lung function and subsequent fatigue in patients. In the later stages of asbestosis, the amount of stress placed on the lungs and heart from the lack of proper oxygen can lead to serious lung and/or heart failure.

Shortness of breath arises because of pleural thickening, the thickening of the lining of the lungs, caused by the longtime presence of asbestos fibers, or pleural effusion, the buildup of fluid between the chest wall and the lungs. Effusions can be caused by many conditions (pneumonia, lupus, congestive heart failure) and can stem from inflammation of the lungs. The thickening and effusions constrict movement of the lungs and eventually the heart. At that point, neither organ expands or contracts properly, which leads to shortness of breath and more fluid build up.

Asbestosis can set in motion a cycle of conditions. The disease prevents lungs from fully oxygenating blood, forcing the heart to work harder. As the heart works harder, blood pressure increases. As blood pressure increases, fluid builds up around the heart and lungs, which can lead to swelling in the neck and face, which in turn can lead to difficulty swallowing.

Fluid can also build up in the abdomen, creating bloating or tenderness, which can lead to a loss of appetite and potential weight loss. In advanced cases, fluid retention, if untreated, will lead to finger deformity known as clubbing.

Relieving Asbestosis Symptoms

Although there is no cure for asbestosis, doctors recommend several treatment options to relieve symptoms, and there are some changes to lifestyle and diet patients can undertake to feel better. Some medications are available to help with coughing and pain. Other treatments include the use of inhalers, supplemental oxygen and antibiotics.

Pulmonary Rehab

Pulmonary rehabilitation is another option. Used in conjunction with medical treatments, pulmonary rehab is considered a long-term approach to helping patients, who are taught new breathing strategies, smarter exercise techniques and ways to manage stress. Pulmonary rehabilitation can also increase energy levels, strengthen exercise performance and improve overall survival and quality of life.

Palliative Treatment

Because coughing and shortness of breath are the most common symptoms of asbestosis, palliative treatment often aims to reduce these symptoms The pleural effusion that causes many of the symptoms experienced by people with asbestosis can be treated by using two noninvasive surgeries, a thoracentesis and a pleurodesis.

Lung Transplant

In severe cases of asbestosis, a doctor may recommend a lung transplant. This surgery typically comes when the patient battles some other condition, such as lung cancer. The one-year survival rate for lung transplant patients is around 80%, but the aggressive surgery is often viewed as a last-resort treatment.

Lifestyle Adjustments

To help alleviate some symptoms, patients may alter their lifestyle by quitting smoking or reducing the amount of daily physical activity. Some adjustments in diet also can help, particularly early in the diagnostic process. Slippery elm bark, an herbal supplement, is a natural treatment for coughs and sore throats, and astragalus plays a prominent role in Chinese medicine for treating respiratory functions.


Find Free Recipes for Mesothelioma Patients
Mesothelioma packet from the Mesothelioma Center
Get the Top Mesothelioma Guide for Free
Get the Compensation You Deserve

  •  
  •  
  •  
Tell us what you think
Did this article help you?
How did this article help you?
What about this article isn’t helpful for you?
Did this article help you?

Thank you for your feedback. Would you like to speak with a Patient Advocate?