The diagnosis of asbestos poisoning can be somewhat difficult because symptoms of asbestos poisoning or its related diseases such as mesothelioma or asbestosis do not manifest until decades after exposure to asbestos. Although asbestos is a natural mineral fiber, but swallowing or inhaling its tiny fibers will result in the adhering to the lung lining and ultimately lead to the development of lung diseases and cancer. In addition, signs and symptoms of asbestos poisoning are closely associated with several other common types of respiratory diseases. Therefore, a variety of diagnostic tests are needed to correctly identify the disease.
In making a diagnosis of asbestos poisoning, doctors will first take a detailed medical examination. During conducting a medical examination doctor will perform different pulmonary function tests to check for signs and symptoms of asbestos poisoning. Difficulty in drawing a full breath or exhaling fully, hoarseness along with a chronic cough are few common symptoms of asbestos poisoning but since it also relates to some other respiratory diseases, it may go undiagnosed until other symptoms appear.
In order to correctly diagnose asbestos poisoning, it is very important to tell your doctor about your occupational history. Your medical and job history for repeated asbestos exposure will help doctors to assess the risk of asbestos related diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.
The following imaging tests are conducted to make a definite diagnosis of asbestos poisoning:
In chest X-ray, a physician will determine the presence of excessive whiteness in your lung tissue. In the advanced stages of asbestosis, the entire lungs may be affected and will appear as a honeycomb.
Computed tomography (CT) scan is the high resolution X-rays that are taken from different angles to produce a clear image of lungs and the pleura that surrounds them. The pleura are often appeared scarred after asbestos exposure. CT scans are extremely valuable in helping detecting asbestosis in its early stages and provide greater detail.
PFT involves a series of breathing maneuvers that allow your doctor to objectively assess the function of your lungs. Pulmonary function tests will measure the airflow and volume of air in your lungs. Some PFTs are recommended to measure the amount of oxygen being transferred to bloodstream.
Bronchoscopy is another diagnostic technique used to detect asbestos related diseases. It is usually performed to take fluid sample from lungs by passing of a flexible fiber optic scope about the diameter of a pencil into the lungs. The fluid sample will help diagnose asbestos poisoning.
Although, it is difficult to diagnose asbestos poisoning as symptoms do not appear until several years. However, these diagnostic methods are effective in the correct diagnosis of asbestosis poisoning so that doctors will be able to recommend immediate treatment.