Treating and Managing Asbestosis

How Asbestosis Is Treated

There is no treatment that can reverse the damage done by asbestos, but certain steps can help slow down progression of the disease and relieve symptoms. Avoiding further exposure to asbestos and other irritants such as cigarette smoke will help slow down the disease from progressing. Medication and breathing treatments may be prescribed by your physician to help ease breathlessness and maintain your general lung health. Here are some things your doctor may recommend to manage asbestosis:

  • Quitting smoking as soon as possible. Smoking can increase the damage done by asbestos and speed up the progression of the disease. The American Lung Association offers a number of smoking cessation programs to give people trying to quit the support they need.
  • Oxygen may be prescribed to help you get more air into your lungs. Oxygen is transferred from a tank through a tube that fits into the nostrils, or with the help of a mask. Learn more about oxygen therapy.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation is an exercise program designed to help all patients with chronic lung conditions maintain optimal activity levels.
  • In very severe situations, your doctor may suggest surgery and refer you to a lung transplant specialist.

Managing Asbestosis

Your doctor can help manage your symptoms, but you can also take steps to keep yourself healthy by doing the following:

  • Maintain nutrition with a well-balanced diet that limits salt intake and includes drinking lots of water.
  • Get adequate sleep every night and take a short rest during the day if needed.
  • Stay as active as you can by exercising regularly but be careful not to overexert yourself.
  • Prevent infections by washing your hands often and getting flu and pneumonia shots according to your doctor's recommendations.
  • Stay inside when air pollution is severe and pollen counts are high.
  • Avoid breathing pollutants that can trigger shortness of breath, including secondhand smoke, traffic fumes, smog, aerosol sprays, and vapors from products, such as paint, kerosene and cleaning agents.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a scarf to avoid breathing in cold air in cold weather.

What to Expect

You may get sick more often when you have asbestosis. As your disease progresses, you may need to make lifestyle changes such as using oxygen therapy, attending pulmonary rehabilitation and learning to go about your daily life in a way that keeps you from feeling too short of breath.

In advanced cases of asbestosis, patients may be hospitalized to help with breathing. As with all lung diseases, it is important to discuss with your doctor how to stay as healthy as possible. If your doctor thinks there may be a point when your asbestosis will cause you to be hospitalized, they might recommend a productive conversation about palliative care options, including filling out an advance directive and taking other steps so that all of your wishes are respected.

Finding Support

Communicate regularly with your doctors about changes in your breathing and general health. The Lung Association recommends patients and caregivers join our Living with Lung Disease Support Community or Better Breathers Clubs to connect with others facing this disease. You can also call the Lung Association's Lung Helpline at 1-800-LUNGUSA to talk to a trained respiratory professional who can help answer your questions and connect you with additional support.

Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.

Page last updated: March 24, 2020

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