The first requirement for the diagnosis of asbestosis is determining the amount of exposure to asbestos. Generally asbestosis results from more than just a one-time exposure. Symptoms are caused by the damage that the tiny asbestos fibers do to the lung tissue.
Some of the most common symptoms include shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, a crackling sound when breathing in, a persistent and productive cough, reduced appetite and chest pain.
Many individuals suffering from asbestosis may not initially experience these symptoms. In fact, some may remain asymptomatic for quite some time. However, as it is a progressive disease, over time the asbestos damage will make itself known and symptoms will go from minor to severe over the course of the illness.
Asbestosis is detected through an initial physical exam, usually followed by an x-ray of the chest and/or a CT scan. A lung function test can indicate the extent of the current lung problems, but a biopsy of the actual lung tissue may be the only way to confirm the precise diagnosis.
There is no cure for asbestosis and it is a fatal disease. However, the life expectancy of the patient can be extended by quitting smoking, avoiding any further asbestos exposure, and eating a balanced and healthy diet. Many asbestosis sufferers find some relief by laying with their heads tilted back and downward to allow the drainage of mucus, or lying on the stomach with the head tilted down for the same purpose.
Additionally, the patient can pound on the chest wall and/or have someone pound on the back of the patient to loosen the mucus to cough it up. Oxygen treatment and aerosol medications can further add to the quality and length of life of the patient. Ultimately, lives have been saved by lung transplants, when that has been an option for the asbestosis sufferer.