What is asbestosis? It is a lung disease that causes interstitial damage. Dr. Cooke, a British pathologist, first coined this term in the early 1930s as a reference to the results he came up with during the postmortem of lungs of textile workers who worked with asbestos in Britain. Now it is an accepted fact that the disease results directly from the intensity and duration of a person’s exposure to asbestiform fiber of any type.
Asbestosis starts manifesting at least a decade after being exposed moderately to severely to asbestos. That the disease follows restrictive pattern is revealed by the physiologic studies that have been conducted on the lung. The condition causes a decrease in the volume as well as diffusing capacity of both the lungs. Peribronchiolar fibrosis that causes mild obstruction to airflow might also be visible. Parenchyma of lung suffers from oxidative injury the culprits being the reactive species of oxygen that are produced by the transition metals present on fiber surface. This adds to fibrosis that is seen in lung parenchyma. The fibrosis is also affected by the cells that are involved in phagocytosis.
A simple radiograph of the chest is able to detect quite a lot of lesions that are caused by exposure to asbestos. Exposure in the past is typically seen as calcifications or thickenings in parietal pleura, in the lower fields of the lungs, heart border and diaphragm. These calcifications or thickenings are called pleural plaques. Pleural effusions that are benign and usually bloody or serous exudates might also be visible. Such effusions might resolve spontaneously or progress slowly. As the disease progresses pleural plaques seen in the lower fields of the lung will spread slowly to the middle and the upper fields. This is why lungs have the appearance of ground glass on radiographs of the chest.
Treatment of patients who are diagnosed with the disease mainly focuses on supportive care. The fibrosis cannot be reversed by therapy. Like other interstitial diseases of the lung, the main goal of Asbestosis treatment includes permanent elimination of offending agent that is removal of products that contain asbestos away from the source, identifying asbestosis symptoms early or early, correct diagnosis as well as prompt treatment for suppressing chronic and acute inflammation processes that exist aggressively. All this is done in order to reduce and stop further damage of the lungs.
The main elements that are used for suppressing alveolitis found in different types of interstitial diseases of the lungs, including asbestosis is glucocorticoids. Initially, 0.5 to 1 mg of prednisone for every kg of the body weight of the patient is given once a day. This is given for one to three months and then the patient is re-examined. If the condition of the patient is stable or has improved, the dose is reduced to 0.25 mg per kg. This dose is given for one to three months. The quantity of glucocorticoids that is given to patients should not be tapered rapidly as inflammatory processes could recur.