Asbestos Diseases

® Quick Summary

Though asbestos was thought for many years to be a useful building material, it poses a significant danger to humans. Asbestos is made up of tiny fibers that the human body cannot break down. These fibers can scar the inside of major organs and lead to long-term health problems. Outside of cancers, asbestos can cause serious issues like asbestosis and pleural effusions.

Asbestos and Deadly Diseases

Asbestos is a mineral that occurs in rocky areas across the globe. Its natural properties of heat- and flame-resistance and durability made it appealing for use in many industries. As a result, it was mined commercially and used for over a century to make buildings, ships, and a wide variety of construction materials and consumer products.

However, despite its wide use throughout much of the 20th century, it is now well-known that asbestos exposure can cause serious health issues if humans breathe asbestos in or swallow its fibers. Outside of cancers like mesothelioma, asbestos exposure is also known to cause other devastating illnesses like asbestosis.

Perhaps even scarier is the fact that asbestos-related diseases often take decades to develop, making them extremely difficult to detect while they are still treatable. To make matters worse, it’s impossible to tell if someone will develop an asbestos-related disease and which one — if any — will arise after exposure.

If you or someone you love was routinely exposed to asbestos through their job or military service, getting the facts about asbestos-related diseases is extremely important.

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How Does Asbestos Cause Disease?

Though asbestos-related diseases have important differences, they all share a common cause: long-term damage from asbestos fibers.

Though asbestos was an important building material, it could easily crumble and release fibers into the air. When these microscopic fibers become airborne, humans can inhale or ingest them without notice.

Asbestos fibers come in different shapes. They can be either sharp and straight or curly. However, all asbestos fibers are known to cause deadly diseases in humans.

Asbestos fibers cannot be broken down by the human body’s natural defense or digestive systems. As a result, they cause constant irritation to nearby tissue. Over time, this leads to abscesses, fluid buildup, and scarring in the affected areas. This chronic irritation eventually causes diseases.

What disease a person develops depends on a few factors, including:

  • The type of asbestos they were exposed to
  • Where asbestos fibers settle in their body
  • If the asbestos damage leads to cellular mutations

Because asbestos fibers are microscopic, they are impossible to remove. As a result, no asbestos-related disease can be cured. However, there are treatment options that can help patients manage them.

Most people never realized asbestos could make them sick. Because of this, they may not be able to afford the treatments that can prolong their lives. This is where a mesothelioma law firm like Sokolove Law can help. By pursuing legal action against asbestos companies, families affected by asbestos-related diseases may receive compensation for costly medical treatments.

Diseases Caused by Asbestos

There are several non-cancerous diseases that are caused by long-term damage from asbestos fibers. The most serious of them is asbestosis, which occurs when asbestos fibers wear away at the lung and cripple its functionality. Asbestos fibers can also cause fluid and plaque buildup over time.

While these diseases are not forms of cancer, they often go hand-in-hand or lead to it. For example, asbestosis may lead to cancer as the asbestos fibers cause more damage over time.


Asbestosis is a non-cancerous lung disease caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. Though asbestosis is not cancerous, it has no cure and can be deadly if left unchecked. When asbestos fibers get stuck in the lung and cause scars to develop, they make it much harder for the lung to operate.

Common symptoms of asbestosis include:

  • Chest pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath

Long-term deterioration from asbestos fibers hardens the affected person’s lung. This can deprive them of oxygen and eventually suffocate them. In some cases, lung deterioration can cause other illnesses to arise. Asbestosis may lead to heart failure or mesothelioma.

Pleural Effusions

A pleural effusion is a buildup of fluid in the lung lining. Pleural effusions are caused when pressure is put on the lung lining, which makes the blood vessels leak fluid.

Common symptoms of pleural effusions include:

  • A persistent, worsening cough
  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
  • Collapse of the lung

Pleural effusions can be treated by doctors relatively easily. More often than not, doctors will insert a needle into the chest and drain the fluid. They may also inflame the pleura, which will encourage it to seal and stop fluid from entering. Pleural effusions cannot be cured, but they can be treated. Without treatment, the fluid can become infected and lead to death.

Diagnosing Mesothelioma with Pleural Effusions

Pleural effusions are found in 90% of pleural mesothelioma cases. Thus, doctors consider them to be an important early sign of that cancer. However, pleural effusions can also be caused by asbestosis. Doctors can analyze the fluid to see if it is a sign of cancer.

Other Asbestos-Related Diseases

There are a few other asbestos-related diseases that are less common. In some cases, they are also less serious than asbestosis or pleural effusions.

Pleural Plaque

Pleural plaque is a chalky, calcium-based material that builds upon the lining of the lungs. According to the British Thoracic Society, pleural plaque is the most common disease associated with asbestos exposure.

This disease typically has no physical symptoms, so it does not normally require treatment. At this time, there is no proven link between pleural plaque and more serious asbestos-related diseases. However, some studies have suggested it may be an independent risk factor for mesothelioma.


A neoplasm is a lump or tumor that grows after cellular mutation takes place in the body. It is an abnormal growth due to increased and randomized cellular division. While some neoplasms are cancerous, others are pre-cancerous or benign.

Asbestos Diseases and Legal Assistance

If you have been exposed to asbestos, you still have options even if you have not yet developed cancer. All asbestos-related diseases are incurable, and many cause mental and physical pain.

Regardless of your situation, we can determine if you qualify for compensation. If you want or need additional information, we are happy to help. To learn more, please fill out our brief contact form or call (888) 360-1323.

Author:Sokolove Law Team
Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: September 10, 2020