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What Are the First Signs of Asbestos Poisoning?

Legally Reviewed by Joseph P. Williams on June 27, 2022

Asbestos is a known carcinogen that is present in the natural environment. It was widely used throughout the United States in the 1900s, when it was touted for its desirable properties and used as a building material. Although the use of asbestos stopped when it was linked to serious illnesses, including asbestosis and mesothelioma, it remains present in many products and environments today and can poison those exposed. You may have asbestos poisoning if you notice any of these early signs.

Shortness of Breath

The most common illness diagnosed due to asbestos exposure is pleural mesothelioma. This is a terminal cancer of the lining of the lungs that currently has no known cure. Asbestos poisoning in this form attacks the lungs and respiratory system, resulting in a variety of respiratory issues such as shortness of breath. You may suddenly get out of breath during normal activities, such as climbing the stairs or playing with your kids. Breathlessness, wheezing and other respiratory complications can all point to asbestos poisoning or lung cancer in association with asbestos exposure.

Chest Pain

Pleural mesothelioma and other lung illnesses due to asbestos poisoning frequently cause chest pain. You may notice sharp or sudden pains in your chest with no clear explanation, or pain in your chest that does not abate (chronic pain). This is one of the earliest signs that a patient is developing respiratory malignancy, such as a tumor in the lining of the lungs or lung cancer. You may also experience a feeling of tightness in your chest if you have asbestos poisoning.

Persistent Dry Cough

Although an individual typically does not notice signs of asbestos exposure right away, for many years afterward, asbestos fibers stuck in the lining of the lungs can create a layer of scar tissue. Over time, this scar tissue can make it difficult to breathe and cause a persistent dry cough. The cough often starts mild but worsens as the cancer progresses. The continued growth of tumors in the lung tissues can contribute to a dry cough, as can pleural effusion – a buildup of fluid in the space around the lungs that can make it difficult for them to expand. Many patients with asbestos poisoning also complain of difficulty swallowing.

Swollen or Clubbed Fingertips

Unlike the other symptoms listed, which can also be attributed to a variety of respiratory conditions and illnesses, fingertip swelling or clubbing is more easily traced specifically to asbestos poisoning. It is one of the telltale signs of asbestos exposure, present in around 50 percent of cases. Clubbing specifically refers to the ends of the fingers being wider and rounder than the rest of the finger. Changes to the fingernails may also occur.

Abdominal Problems 

Asbestos poisoning does not always present itself as pleural mesothelioma or other lung conditions. If a victim ingests asbestos, it can reach the stomach and cause peritoneal mesothelioma – cancer of the lining of the abdomen. This will have different signs and symptoms compared to pleural mesothelioma. Early signs often include stomach cramps, abdominal pain, indigestion, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, anemia, fatigue, loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss.

Talk to your doctor right away if you experience any potential symptoms of asbestos poisoning. Keep in mind that these symptoms do not appear for around 10 to 60 years after the date of exposure, in most cases. This delay, along with symptoms that are similar to other illnesses, can make asbestos and mesothelioma difficult to diagnose. If you find out that you do have asbestos poisoning, you may be entitled to financial compensation through a mesothelioma lawsuit in New York. Learn more about this by contacting The Williams Law Firm, P.C. for a free consultation.

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