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Asbestosis Prognosis

Asbestosis Prognosis and Life Expectancy

The severity of asbestosis will depend on the length and amount of asbestos exposure.  There is no cure for asbestosis once it has developed because it is not possible to repair lung damage caused by exposure to asbestos. Whilst the condition cannot be reversed or cured the symptoms can be managed.

In many cases the condition progresses slowly or even not at all. Asbestos fibres remain in the lung for long periods and the scarring continues to develop many years after the exposure has stopped. Given that the development is slow an otherwise healthy person might not develop any significant disability.  In more severe cases asbestosis can place a significant strain on a persons health and shorten their life expectancy.

How the condition can progress?

Progression of asbestosis may lead to:-

Finger Clubbing

Finger clubbing is associated with a more severe form of the disease and possibly an increased risk of progression.  Finger clubbing is the symptom where the tips of the fingers become rounder and spread out.

Breathing and Coughing

Breathing can become more difficult and painful. Initially this may only be on exertion but as the disease progresses it can happen even at rest.

Crackling

Fine bilateral inspiratory crackles – crackles are fine and usually occur with each inspiratory effort, that is to say when an individual breathes in. The dry crackling sound can be heard with a stethoscope while listening to the lungs fill with air when a person breathes in.

Heart Disease

The significant lung scarring can reduce total lung capacity. This reduces the ability to transfer oxygen from air into the blood and remove carbon dioxide .  This can then go on to lead to heart failure.  This is because the heart has to work harder which in turn weakens the heart and can lead to heart failure.
There has been a study reported in the Occupational & Environmental Medicine Journal in 2012 which looked into cardiovascular disease mortality among British asbestos workers (1971-2005).This indicated a link between those working with asbestos and those with cardiovascular disease.

Mesothelioma and lung cancer

Unfortunately, asbestosis also carries an increased risk of developing mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Factors that might affect an individual’s life expectancy who has asbestosis include:-

  • Smoking – life expectancy will be greatly affected if an individual is also a smoker.
  • Other respiratory diseases – if an individual has, for example, COPD then their life expectancy might be reduced as the individuals lungs have to work harder to keep up healthy oxygen levels in the blood stream.
  • Other health problems – if an individual has developed other immune system problems then it will be more difficult for that individual to fight off infections. It will be  recommended that if you have asbestosis that you have eg the flu vaccine.

Deaths from asbestosis

The Health and Safety Executive have reported that deaths from asbestosis are continuing to increase and in fact in 2010 there were 412 deaths where asbestosis is likely to have contributed as a cause compared with 109 in 1978. There were 169 deaths in 2010 where asbestosis was specifically recorded as a cause of death.

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