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How do I know if I have asbestosis?

Numerous Pennsylvania workers have exposed themselves to asbestos-containing materials unknowingly. Most of these workers will never develop asbestosis or other asbestos-related diseases, but some of them will. In fact, doctors and medical experts claim that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos and even a small amount can lead to serious health consequences.

If you know you've been exposed to asbestos -- especially if the exposure lasted for consecutive months or years -- you should keep your eye out for the following asbestosis symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Dry, persistent coughing.
  • Weight loss and appetite loss.
  • Toes and fingertips that are rounder and wider than usual. This is called "clubbing" in medical circles.
  • Chest pain or chest tightness.
  • Alveoli and bronchioles in your lungs. A physician can identify these through appropriate examination.

Asbestosis happens after extended exposure to airborne asbestos fibers, which embed themselves in the lung tissues. These materials get lodged in the tiny sacs in your lungs, causing irritation and scarring, which interferes with the transfer oxygen to the blood. Ultimately, this oxygenation process gets weakened, resulting in shortness of breath and other serious breathing and cardiovascular problems over time. Eventually, as the asbestosis gets worse, the lungs get more scarred, resulting in stiff lung tissue that can't expand and contract normally.

If you're suffering from asbestosis symptoms, be sure to visit a doctor to get examined as soon as possible. If you test positive for asbestosis, you may be able to pursue workers' compensation benefits if the disease was caused by your job, even if it was a job you held many years ago.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "Asbestosis: Symptoms and causes," accessed Oct. 06, 2017

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