People once viewed asbestos as a wonder material. This naturally occurring group of minerals was fire, heat and chemical resistant. It also didn’t conduct electricity. Because of these and other properties, numerous industries, such as construction, mining and manufacturing, used it, often in large quantities. Products containing asbestos were everywhere and people in numerous industries here in Texas and elsewhere worked with products that contained the material.
Then, sometime before the late 1970s, researchers discovered that exposure to asbestos fibers and dust caused life-threatening and life-altering medical conditions such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. The problem was, and is, that it could take anywhere from 10 to 40 years before these illnesses appear. You may have known that your job exposed you to asbestos, but since you didn’t get sick, you felt you had dodged a bullet. That is, until now, when you went to the doctor and received a diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness.
Symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses
Even short exposure to asbestos can have far-reaching health consequences. If you experience any of the following symptoms of an asbestos-related illness, and you know you were exposed at some point in the past, contact your doctor as soon as possible:
- A worsening and persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty swallowing
- Coughing up blood
- Swollen face or neck
- Unexplained weight loss
- Chest pain
- Loss of appetite
You might not experience all of these symptoms, but any one of them could point to an asbestos-related illness.
Diagnosing an asbestos-related illness
In order to reach a proper diagnosis, you need to inform your doctor of your exposure to asbestos during that first visit. You may not find it significant, but remember that it can take decades for an illness related to this material to manifest. Your doctor can perform a number of tests to determine whether you suffer from an illness related to asbestos exposure, such as the following:
- CT scans
- Lung biopsies
Your mucus, feces and urine may also contain asbestos fibers, but their presence only indicates exposure, not how much asbestos ended up in your lungs.
What happens now?
On the medical side, your doctor will advise you of a treatment plan and a way to keep you comfortable depending on your diagnosis. Undoubtedly, you will incur a significant amount of medical bills associated with your treatment, along with other financial losses, such as lost income if you still work.
You may receive benefits from the workers’ compensation system to help with those financial issues. It may also be possible to file a lawsuit under certain circumstances. However, since the exposure more than likely occurred several years ago, you may have a challenge ahead of you. In order to boost your chances of receiving much-needed benefits and compensation, you could enlist the help of an attorney who understands those challenges, can advise you of your rights and advocate on your behalf.