Can asbestos cause COPD? Effects of exposure and more
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term for a group of diseases that destroy lung tissue and reduce airflow to the lungs. A person can develop COPD as a result of long-term exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos is a generic term for a group of naturally occurring silicates made up of long, thin fibers. These silicates have insulating and heat-insulating properties, making asbestos a popular material in the construction industry. Despite its prevalence, asbestos is potentially harmful to respiratory health.
This article describes the effects of asbestos on respiratory health and asks if asbestos can cause COPD. We also provide information on COPD symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Finally, we discuss when to contact a doctor about COPD symptoms.
According to the British Lung Foundation, asbestosis develops as a result of inhaling microscopic asbestos fibers into the lungs. These fibers damage tiny air sacs called “alveoli,” which help exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. Over time, scar tissue builds up around the sockets, hampering their function. This makes breathing more difficult.
The American Lung Association notes that exposure to asbestos also increases the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma. The latter is a serious form of cancer that develops on the outer lining of the lungs and other organs. Almost all cases of mesothelioma are due to exposure to asbestos.
Learn more about asbestosis here.
The mesothelioma center states that asbestos does not directly cause COPD. On the contrary, COPD weakens the lungs, making them more susceptible to diseases associated with asbestos exposure.
Symptoms of COPD include
A person with COPD may also experience the following
To diagnose COPD, a doctor will begin by assessing a person’s symptoms and reviewing their medical history.
When reviewing a person’s medical history, a doctor will pay attention to the following factors:
- previous symptoms of COPD
- family history of COPD
- smoking history
- exposure to secondhand smoke
- exposure to other particles, such as asbestos
Following the initial evaluation, a doctor may order tests to confirm a diagnosis of COPD or rule out other medical conditions.
Additional tests may include:
- pulmonary radiography: an imaging test that can help identify abnormalities in the lungs
- arterial blood gas test: a blood test to assess how well the blood is getting oxygen and removing carbon dioxide
Treatment for COPD should begin as
- manage symptoms
- reduce exacerbations
- improved quality of life
- reduce mortality
People will need different types and levels of treatment
- Bronchodilators: These relax the muscles around the airways to improve airflow.
- Corticosteroids: These reduce inflammation to improve air circulation.
- Systemic glucocorticoids: These suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation.
- Phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE4) inhibitors: These suppress the immune system and have bronchodilator effects.
- Antibiotics: These help fight bacterial infections.
Oxygen therapy involves breathing oxygen-rich air through a mask or nasal tube connected to an oxygen device, such as a concentrator or oxygen cylinder.
Treatment may be needed for people whose COPD causes dangerously low blood oxygen levels.
Doctors may recommend lung surgery to improve breathing in people with severe or frequent symptoms of COPD.
There are two main types of lung surgery for COPD:
- Bullectomy: This is a procedure that involves removing the bubbles from the lungs. Bubbles are large empty air sacs that develop from the destruction of hundreds of alveoli. They crowd out functional areas of the lungs, making it difficult for a person to breathe.
- Lung Volume Reduction Surgery (LVRS): This procedure involves removing about 30% of the diseased lung tissue so that the remaining healthy lung tissue can function more effectively.
The goal of pulmonary rehabilitation is to rebuild lung strength through exercise and education, which in turn can improve lung function and relieve symptoms. With pulmonary rehabilitation, people can manage their symptoms, become fitter and more active, and have a better quality of life.
In addition to physical therapy, it can help people join a support group. The American Lung Association lists the following resources that may be helpful for people with COPD:
- Lung Helpline: This is a free service that people can call to speak with a registered nurse. In addition to providing information, Lung HelpLine can offer support for people trying to quit smoking.
- Club of the best respirators: These are support groups where people can connect with others who share similar experiences.
- Virtual Support Group Living with COPD: This is an online community for people with COPD.
The production and use of asbestos in the United States has declined significantly since the 1980s. Older buildings containing asbestos are generally safe, although damaging or disturbing the asbestos can result in the suspension of fibers in the air. For this reason, the risk of exposure to asbestos is higher for people who work in construction, maintenance and insulation.
- carbon dust
People should also avoid fumes from cigarette smoke or pollution, and avoid exposure to organic substances such as high-temperature fungi and bird droppings.
It is important for a person to speak with a doctor as soon as possible if they have symptoms of COPD. The earlier a person receives a diagnosis and appropriate treatment, the greater the likelihood that the treatment will be effective.
It can be difficult to recognize the early signs of COPD. The main symptoms to watch out for are shortness of breath and fatigue.
Asbestos is a substance made up of long, thin fibers of silicon. It is particularly prevalent in the construction industry. However, long-term exposure to asbestos can cause serious chronic respiratory conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
COPD is the umbrella term for a group of lung conditions that involve lung damage, reduced airflow, and difficulty breathing. Although there is no cure for COPD, treatments can help manage symptoms, reduce exacerbations, and improve quality of life.
The best way for a person to reduce their risk of developing COPD is to avoid exposure to harmful substances, including asbestos. If symptoms develop, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment improve the outlook for people living with the disease.