Asbestos exposure symptoms

Last Updated on October 1, 2020 by Kirsty Smithson

What are the common symptoms of asbestos exposure?

The most common symptoms of asbestos exposure include shortness of breath, a persistent dry cough and chest pain. Other symptoms of exposure to asbestos are loss of appetite, weight loss and swollen fingertips and toes (known as clubbing).

But it takes many years from the period of exposure to asbestos for any symptoms to show and develop. In fact, it can take up to 40 years as many asbestos-related illnesses and diseases have such a long incubation period.

Sadly, it is only once a person develops an asbestos-related disease that any symptoms of asbestos exposure will manifest themselves, and it’s often too late to do anything to reverse the effects of the disease.

Usually, the very first signs of an asbestos-related disease resulting from previous long term exposure to asbestos will involve complications with the lungs and be the sign of a lung disease.

Signs of asbestos exposure affecting the lungs will typically include these symptoms:-

But asbestos can also be the cause of diseases in other parts of the body such as the throat, stomach, and even testicles in men.

Signs of asbestos exposure affecting other body parts will typically include these symptoms:-

What are the common diseases caused by exposure to asbestos?

Occupational or secondary asbestos exposure can lead to developing an asbestos-related disease or illness later in life, and there are various types that can either be cancerous or non-cancerous.

Cancers that can be caused by asbestos exposure are mesothelioma, lung cancer, ovarian cancer and Laryngeal cancer (throat).

Other diseases that are non-cancerous but can seriously affect health include asbestosis, pleural thickening and plaques along with atelectasis and pleuritis.

Asbestos exposure can lead to asbestos related cancer
Asbestos exposure can lead to asbestos-related cancers

Providing you have a history of prolonged exposure to asbestos, then there are certain screening tests you can have done in order to test for symptoms of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

However, it’s important to note that these screening tests are usually ineffective for patients who may be displaying no symptoms of an asbestos-related disease, due to perhaps being in the very early stage of a disease developing.

It can also be difficult for doctors to detect mesothelioma for example as there isn’t one specific test for it.

But by performing a number of different tests, they may hopefully be able to locate any potential problems before any symptoms of asbestos exposure arise in the patient.

Your doctor may recommend one or more procedure to screen for an asbestos-related disease.

Methods they may suggest will include having a chest X-ray, a CT scan, Bronchoscopy, Spirometry, Pulmonary function tests and/or Bronchoalveolar lavage.

Whether or not you’re at risk of going on to develop an asbestos-related disease will depend on certain factors such as the length of exposure and how may asbestos fibres you inhaled.

It tends to be people who were exposed to asbestos over a long period of time, usually because of their job, who develop an asbestos-related disease years later.

So people who have worked or are working in manufacturing, ship building, mining, construction, building and other related trades who regularly came into contact with asbestos will be most at risk from asbestos diseases and symptoms caused by asbestos exposure.

In fact, an estimated 20 percent of people who work with asbestos as part of their job will go on to develop an asbestos-related disease, with the most common disease being asbestosis, followed by lung cancer and then mesothelioma which is less common.

And it doesn’t matter what type of asbestos they were exposed to as all types of asbestos can cause these various diseases, although some types are considered to be more dangerous than others ie crocidolite.

Smoking is also known to be a contributory factor paired with asbestos exposure in developing and worsening symptoms of lung cancer or asbestosis.

Not all patients will immediately develop cancer, if at all, and may firstly develop a non cancerous asbestos-related disease.

Although developing a non cancerous disease could be a sign that an individual may go onto develop asbestos-related cancer later on, but this is by no means definitive.

If you have a history of working with asbestos and are experiencing symptoms of asbestos exposure, then please ensure you arrange to see your GP as soon as possible.


Did you find this article interesting?  Then check out our other interesting articles below.

For all your asbestos training needs call us on 0161 761 4424 or visit https://www.armcoasbestostraining.co.uk/asbestos-training-courses/ to book an asbestos training course.

Need an asbestos management survey or a refurbishment/demolition survey? Then contact us on 0161 763 3727 or by visiting our sister site https://www.armco.org.uk/

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Published Feb 05, 2020
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