Asbestos Exposure: Signs & Symptoms

By:    Published: August 8, 2012

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Asbestos are thin, fiber-like minerals which occur naturally in the environment. Unfortunately, these minerals are extremely hazardous to human health, and when the fibers are inhaled, they may cause serious health complications including fatal diseases and conditions. These negative impacts on personal health can show up long after exposure to asbestos has occurred. The following are some of the key symptoms and side effects of asbestos exposure.

Signs And Symptoms

The following are sings and symptoms that commonly appear in response to asbestos exposure. Keep in mind that these symptoms may appear even if many years have passed since the initial exposure occurred:

  1. Shortness of breath
  2. Wheezing or hoarseness of the throat
  3. Tightness or pain in the chest
  4. Dry, crackling sound in the lungs when inhaling
  5. Swelling in the face or neck
  6. A persistent cough or wheezing that progressively worsens
  7. Coughing up blood or mucus
  8. Weight loss
  9. Loss of appetite
  10. Fatigue
  11. Anemia

When To Seek Help

None of the symptoms listed above can be used as a surefire diagnosis of asbestos exposure. Rather, a doctor will have to perform a physical examination, conduct lung function tests and take x-rays of the chest before a diagnosis can be reached. In addition to these tests, a doctor may also need to perform a lung biopsy to see if microscopic asbestos fibers are actually present in the body. Despite the fact that some asbestos exposure symptoms are related to other health conditions, it's still important to seek the help of a physician when these symptoms appear.

Side Effects

There are several, serious health conditions that may develop as a result of asbestos exposure, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. Both of these conditions may be fatal if left untreated. Additionally, certain nonmalignant lung conditions and conditions of the pleura (the lining of the chest cavity) may develop from asbestos exposure including asbestosis, pleural plaques, pleural thickening and pleural effusions. These conditions can lead to scarring of the lungs that makes breathing much more difficult.

Risk Factors

In most cases, the diseases and conditions described above are more likely to affect individuals who have experienced long-term, regular exposure to asbestos. However, anyone who has inhaled asbestos is at risk for these diseases and conditions. In fact, family members of people with long-term exposure to asbestos from their job may have a higher risk of developing these conditions. Additionally, individuals who have been exposed to asbestos who also smoke cigarettes are at an especially high risk for these diseases.

If you have any concerns that you may have been exposed to asbestos, talk to your doctor about possible tests to determine any potential health risks.

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