Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease caused by exposure to asbestos dust. Inhaling asbestos dust can cause scarring in the lungs and in the pleural membrane (lining that surrounds the lungs).
People with asbestosis have difficulty breathing, often have a cough, lung damage and, in severe cases, have an enlarged heart.
Symptoms usually appear 10 to 20 years after exposure to asbestos dust. Treating the symptoms can help — such as treating shortness of breath with oxygen. However, the damage to the lungs caused by asbestosis is not reversible.
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Last reviewed: August 2020