Development of Fibrosis
Fibrosis can develop anywhere there is damage to body tissue. Basically, fibrosis is scarring of the lung tissue resulting from chronic inflammation. The inflammation is caused by inhaled asbestos fibers that have lodged in the tissue that surrounds the alveoli and terminal airways. Fibrosis can develop from many sources, but when it is from asbestos particles that lodge in the interstitial space that surrounds the alveoli it is called asbestosis.
Fibrosis in the lungs causes restrictive disease. The thickened and scarred tissue restricts the expansion of the lungs. When fibrosis is extensive it restricts breathing sufficiently to impair oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. The lungs are the sole source of delivering oxygen to the blood to be carried to the cells, and also the sole source of expelling carbon dioxide, a waste product, from the body.
Shortness of breath on exertion is the first symptom of fibrosis. Because it is slow to progress, it may not get the attention it deserves until it progresses to a more serious state. As fibrosis progresses it can lead to respiratory failure, defined by a blood oxygen level lower than 60 mmHg, and a carbon dioxide level higher than 45 mmHg.
Asbestosis most prevalently affects the lower lung lobes, which, unfortunately are the larger portion of the lungs. Destruction of so much lung tissue can lead to cor pulmonale, enlargement of the heart and right heart failure caused by the increased pressure of pumping blood through the higher resistance caused by the fibrotic lung tissue.
Pulmonary function testing can detect restrictive lung disease, which is identified by a reduced total lung capacity, and other decreased lung measurements. When oxygen levels are chronically below normal levels, the body responds by compensating. Clubbing of the fingers and toes occurs as the capillaries dilate to allow more blood to flow through in an effort to get more oxygen by increasing the amount of blood that flows through. Often the person’s nail beds and lips appear dusky or bluish.
If you suffer from an asbestos-related disease, please contact the lawyers with experience in mesothelioma claims, Brown | Kiely, LLP, in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C.