There are many poisons in this world that if ingested will manifest itself immediately. Exposure to certain poisons often presents life-threatening symptoms that warrant the victim to be taken to the emergency room as soon as possible. Unfortunately, asbestos poisoning does not show itself until after at least 15 years. Some victims of asbestos poisoning exhibit symptoms after 50 years.
Asbestos gets into the system by inhalation or ingestion. Thin fibers of asbestos lodge in the lining of the lung tissues or even in the lung itself. Asbestos fibers have been found lodged in the pericardium, the lining surrounding the heart. The abdomen is also not spared. Asbestos fibers have also been found in the abdomen of patients exposed to asbestos fibers.
A number of diseases and cancers are associated with asbestos poisoning. Three of these illnesses stand out: asbestosis, different types of mesothelioma and lung cancer.
When asbestos fibers embedded in the actual tissues of the lungs, the resulting illness is asbestosis. Over time, scarring occurs in the lung tissues resulting in their inability to properly absorb oxygen. Patients suffering from asbestosis lose their ability to do even the most normal physical activities.
The mesothelium is the lining found around vital organs like the lungs and the heart and within the abdominal cavity. Mesothelioma is the cancer of this lining. The most common type of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, cancer of the lungs’ lining. Pericardial mesothelioma is more rare. This is the cancer of the heart’s mesothelial lining. Peritoneal mesothelioma is the cancer of the abdominal cavity’s lining and the lining that covers the different abdominal organs.
Lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma are often thought to be the same. The difference between the two is that lung cancer that stems from exposure to asbestos points to cancer of the actual tissues of the lungs. On the other hand pleural mesothelioma is the cancer of the mesothelial lining surrounding the lungs.
Symptoms of asbestos poisoning
The problem with asbestos poisoning apart from the fact that the symptoms appear years and years after the initial exposure is that other common diseases share its symptoms. By the time the symptoms appear, the disease has progressed by leaps and bounds. There is no one symptom that will immediately point to exposure to asbestos.
There are many symptoms of asbestos poisoning. Some of these symptoms are:
- Dry cough
- Persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain including tightness in the chest area
- Difficulty swallowing
- Appetite loss
- Weight loss
The symptoms above can also be seen in patients with asthma, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and even heart disease. Thus, it is hard to tell if the symptoms are due to asbestos exposure. Thorough medical examination and testing is necessary in order to determine whether a patient is suffering from asbestos poisoning or not.
If you know that you have been exposed to asbestos at one time or another, inform your primary care physician. He needs to know whether he needs to rule out asbestos poisoning if you complain about symptoms common with asbestos exposure and other diseases. Remember that asbestos fibers are invisible to the naked eye and that the effects of ingestion or inhalation of such fibers only appears after many years when the illness has progressed.