Asbestos symptoms

Last Updated on 26th April 2023 by Dan

The common asbestos symptoms

Think you may be suffering from an asbestos-related disease? Check out the most common symptoms of asbestos poisoning below, which will vary depending on which type of asbestos disease you have:-

1 Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath is often one of the very first symptoms that indicates signs of an asbestos related illness.

Exposure to and inhalation of asbestos fibers causes scar tissue in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.

This scar tissue that develops in the lungs is known as asbestosis.

Asbestosis has a long latency period, meaning the disease usually takes many years to develop following the initial exposure to asbestos.

Symptoms of asbestosis usually take anywhere between 20 to 30 years to develop.

Although if an individual has been heavily exposed to asbestos it could mean a shorter latency period of 12 to 20 years or even less.

Research has also shown that the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure increases the risk of developing asbestos symptoms and asbestosis substantially.

2 Wheezing

Find yourself wheezing a lot? Then you may have been exposed to asbestos in the past.

Exposure and inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to inflammation in the lungs, causing wheezing.

You will probably notice a distinct ‘whistling’ sound.

3 Persistent Dry Cough

Again, a persistent cough is one of the most common asbestos symptoms.

It’s the scar tissue in the lungs that causes this persistent cough, which develops over a long period of time.

4 Fatigue

Feeling more tired than usual?

If you find you are constantly tired, it could be a warning sign of an asbestos related disease such as lung cancer or mesothelioma. Particularly if you are suffering from any of the other common asbestos symptoms.

5 Swollen Fingertips

Another of the common asbestos symptoms and a sign of the disease asbestosis, is swollen fingertips.

The fingertips will appear broader, rounder and overall swollen (otherwise known as club fingers or ‘finger clubbing’).

Other warning signs that something may be wrong are pains in the chest/abdomen, fever or night sweats, muscle weakness, nail deformities, loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss.

When will symptoms of asbestos appear?

Generally speaking, those who develop asbestos related diseases don’t actually display any signs of illness for a long time after exposure to asbestos.

Infact, it may take anywhere between 10 and 40 years or more after exposure to asbestos for any asbestos symptoms to appear.

Your doctor will diagnose an asbestos related lung disease based on your past exposure to asbestos, any symptoms, a physical exam, and results of tests such as a chest X-ray or chest CT scan.

Who is most likely to develop symptoms of asbestos disease?

Workers most at risk are those who have worked in shipyards, aircraft and automobile engineers, miners, building and construction workers, electricians and railway workers.

Although tradesmen statistically are at higher risk of developing symptoms of an asbestos related disease, as asbestos was used so extensively in the construction of residential, commercial and public buildings.

Therefore, this means that anyone working or residing in a building constructed BEFORE the UK asbestos ban in 1999 could also be at risk.

Asbestos related diseases include mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.

Asbestos symptoms diagnosis

If you’ve been exposed to asbestos for more than ten years, then the first step you should take is to visit your GP.

You should visit your GP routinely for a chest X-ray and screening every 3 to 5 years.

Your GP will ask about your asbestos symptoms and will usually listen to you chest with a stethoscope.

They will also ask about your work history and whether you were ever exposed to asbestos and how long for.

If the GP suspects you are suffering from an asbestos related disease based on your symptoms, then you’ll most likely be referred to hospital for specialist testing to be carried out.

These tests will usually involve x-rays and a CT scan.

The chest x-ray is currently the most common tool used to detect asbestos-related diseases.

A lung biopsy sample may also be taken to test for cancer cells or a less intrusive bronchoscopy may be performed.

Available treatment options

Unfortunately, there is no cure for asbestosis. But patients do have some treatment options available to them if they are suffering from symptoms of asbestos poisoning.

These treatments can help to control and alleviate some of the asbestos symptoms.

For example, prescription inhalers have been shown to help loosen congestion in the lungs.

Oxygen from a mask or tubes that fit inside your nose can also help if you find you are having great difficulty in breathing.

There are also preventative treatments for asbestosis that stop the disease from getting any worse, such as avoiding further exposure to asbestos and quitting smoking.

If a patient’s condition is particularly severe as a result of asbestos poisoning, then another option is to have a lung transplant.

Long term outlook

As well as asbestosis, the symptoms of being exposed to asbestos can also lead to other diseases such as mesothelioma, which is a severe form of lung cancer.

If you’re a smoker, then you may go on to develop other types of lung cancer.

Another serious condition that can result from asbestosis is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Pleural effusion, which is buildup of fluid around the lungs, is also associated with asbestosis disease.

The longer you were exposed to asbestos and the more asbestos fibers you inhaled will ultimately affect how severe the asbestos symptoms are and which of the asbestos related diseases you go on to develop.

Duty holders and employers have a legal responsibility to manage asbestos in their properties, carrying out an asbestos survey in their buildings so as not to put employees at risk.

So make sure you contact our Armco office to arrange asbestos testing or an asbestos survey before it’s too late! 

Whether you need an asbestos management survey or a refurbishment/ demolition survey, contact us at 0161 763 3727 or by visiting

Finally, for all your asbestos training needs call 0161 761 4424 or visit book an asbestos awareness training course.

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Published Apr 08, 2019

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