What are the signs and symptoms of asbestosis?

Posted: 6th Aug 21 8:30 AM

Asbestosis is defined as a diffuse pulmonary fibrosis caused by the inhalation of an excessive amount of asbestos.

Asbestosis is a non-cancerous form of pulmonary fibrosis where the lung tissue becomes thickened and stiff over a period of time, due to permanent scarring of the alveoli (air sacs which supply oxygen to the blood stream) in the lungs.

Individuals who were subject to prolonged exposure to large quantities of asbestos are at a higher risk of developing asbestosis.

Asbestos in UK industry

Early symptoms of asbestosis

Asbestosis is a very slow-paced respiratory disease, even for a type of pulmonary fibrosis.

Like most other asbestos-related diseases, asbestosis takes between 10 and 50 years to develop after exposure.

The severity of this respiratory disease can vary from person to person. Asbestosis progresses slowly and in many cases will remain stable for a long period of time.

Early symptoms of asbestosis are much less noticeable compared to symptoms of other asbestos-related diseases, and are often dismissed as a sign of old age. If you are worried about developing asbestosis, or have been exposed to large amounts of asbestos, you should look out for the following symptoms:


  • Breathlessness through minimal exertion
  • Consistent and regular tiredness
  • A persistent cough, lasting for 3 weeks or more
  • Hypertension
  • Chest pains



It is possible to have a degree of asbestosis and not suffer from any symptoms. In these cases the disease might only be revealed because of an incidental scan or other diagnostic procedure.

What should you do if you show signs of asbestosis?

If you are worried that your past exposure to asbestos has put you at risk of developing asbestosis, or another asbestos-related disease, and you notice a change in your health, the first thing you need to do is make an appointment to see your doctor.

You should make note of any symptoms you are suffering with, as well as when and how they affect you – this is important information that your doctor will need to know.

You should also make them aware of your work history and if you have been exposed to asbestos.

If it is suspected that you could have asbestosis, or you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, you may be entitled to compensation and government benefits.

At the National Asbestos Helpline, we can investigate your eligibility for compensation and help you get financial assistance and legal support.

If you or a loved one is ever diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, or you are worried about past asbestos exposure, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the National Asbestos Helpline. We’re here to help you with information about your condition, benefits and any compensation you might be entitled to. Call us on Freephone 0800 043 6635, or email enquiries@nationalasbestos.co.uk.

Further reading

What is the asbestos compensation claims process?

Why is asbestos dangerous?

What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?

What are the symptoms of pleural thickening?