What is Asbestosis?

Early asbestosis in a retired pipe-fitter

Asbestosis is fibrosis or scarring of the lungs caused by asbestos dust. Asbestosis develops 20 years or more after first exposure. It is necessary to breathe in large amounts of asbestos dust, usually over several years, to develop asbestosis.

Patients present with breathlessness on exertion. A cough is common. A chest X-ray and a CT scan are usually sufficient to confirm the diagnosis. Taking a sample of tissue from the lung, called a lung biopsy, is not usually necessary unless the diagnosis is in doubt. Lung function tests are performed to assess how badly the lungs are affected.

Asbestosis usually progresses slowly. It is generally resistant to drug treatment although corticosteroid and immunosuppressive drugs are tried occasionally.

Patients are at risk of lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma.

Asbestos causes the same types of lung cancer as are caused by smoking. The two hazards of smoking and asbestos act together to greatly increase the risk of lung cancer.

Asbestosis Compensation & Benefits

To qualify for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, you must be suffering from a prescribed asbestos disease. You must also show that you have been exposed to asbestos while working for an employer (employed earner)  in a prescribed occupation (PDF).

Source: Dr Robin Rudd, MA MD FRCP, Consultant Oncologist. Reviewed by Dr Robin Rudd: March 2017