COPD and other asbestos related diseases
We are often contacted by people who have COPD who want to know if it is possible to claim compensation if they believe that working with asbestos caused the condition.
Many people with COPD will also suffer from emphysema and/or bronchitis. With COPD the airways in the lungs - respiratory bronchioles and alveolar ducts - lose their elasticity. This affects the ability to exhale properly and traps air inside the lungs. This stale air will result in a reduced ability for oxygen exchange, which affects the expulsion of carbon dioxide.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is not directly caused by exposure to asbestos, but it can increase the risk of developing the condition.
COPD may weaken the lungs, making a person more susceptible to additional asbestos-related diseases.
Long term exposure to asbestos dust and fibres is one of the secondary causes of COPD, this usually occurs when someone is diagnosed with asbestosis.
People diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer may also develop COPD, although the link between asbestosis and COPD is more common.
The main cause of COPD is smoking, including exposure to second-hand smoke. Other risk factors include exposure to dust and chemicals other than asbestos in the work-place, also exposure to fumes from burning fuel, genetics and age.
If you have smoked, even if this was only for a couple of years in your early 20s, it is difficult to claim compensation. This is because insurance companies acting on behalf of companies who exposed their employees to asbestos, do not want to give you any money. Given the weight of medical evidence that links COPD to smoking, they will use this to stop any claims for compensation for asbestos related COPD.
Misdiagnosis of COPD instead of asbestos related diseases
On occasion, asbestos related diseases are misdiagnosed as COPD, emphysema or chronic bronchitis which are more common, this can lead to incorrect treatment and poorer outcomes for patients. The symptoms are similar as shown below with COPD on the left and asbestos related disease on the right:
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent cough
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Loss of weight
- Reduced breath sounds and wheezing
- Difficulty breathing
- Persisting cough
- Tightness in the chest
- Unintentional weight loss
Living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or asbestos related illnesses may has a huge impact on quality of life. It is therefore essential that you get the most accurate diagnosis to ensure the treatment that will lengthen your life and help you to handle your symptoms.
emphysema and asbestos exposure
Again it is difficult to claim asbestos compensation for emphysema. Even though there is evidence to suggest such a connection between asbestos exposure and emphysema, there is no evidence definitively linking asbestos exposure directly with emphysema.
Like COPD, Emphysema is usually associated with smoking, though studies have shown the presence of emphysema in non-smokers who have been exposed to asbestos. There is little research in this area although a study in Finland of construction workers did find that emphysema was more common among workers who had asbestosis or were heavily exposed to asbestos through their employment.
Rounded atelectasis or Blesovsky syndrome
Atelectasis is the medical term for a collapsed lung resulting in reduced or absent gas exchange. It typically affects part or all of one lung and may be secondary to multiple other causes.
It is usually caused by undergoing general anesthesia for a surgical procedure - typically thoracic, cardiopulmonary surgeries. It can also be caused bt pulmonary tuberculosis. Smokers and the elderly are also at an increased risk. It is a rare asbestos related condition and may accompany pleural thickening.
Atelectasis is benign, but it may the appearance of cancer on a CT scan, so consultants may request a biopsy or a repeat scan with the lungs fully inflated to differentiate this and mesothleioma or asbestos lung cancer.
Pleural effusions are sometimes referred to as “water on the lungs” and are a build up of fluid of excess fluid between the layers of the pleura outside the lungs. The pleura are membranes that line the lungs and the inside of the chest cavity and act to lubricate the action of breathing. Normally, a small amount of fluid is present in the pleura.
Effusions can develop independently of other asbestos related diseases but around 40,000 people per year in the UK are affected by malignant pleural effusion. 40% are lung cancer patients and 25% breast cancer - the most common metastatic tumours to the pleura. About 10% of all malignant pleural effusions are due to primary cancers arising from the pleura with malignant mesothelioma.
In isolation, pleural effusions are not immediately life-threatening, but they can interfere with breathing and be painful. Even after the fluid is drained, it is likely to recur unless a procedure called a Pleurodesis is performed. A pleurodesis causes the pleural membranes to stick together, making the lung stick to the chest wall and preventing a space to form for the liquid to accumulate.
Peritoneal effusion refers to an excess collection of fluid in the abdominal cavity. It is usually caused by liver cirrhosis, congestive heart failure, tuberculosis, pancreatic disease and dialysis. Peritoneal mesothelioma is a rare cause of the condition.
Pericardial effusions are a build up of excess fluid between the layers of the membranes surrounding the heart. If too much fluid builds up, it can put pressure on the heart which can prevent it from pumping normally. Treatments to remove the fluid are available, but pericardial effusion is usually sign of a very serious underlying health issue, such as pericardial mesothelioma.
We are here to help, so if you have any questions about claiming for an asbestos related condition other than asbestosis, pleural thickening, asbestos lung cancer or mesothelioma, please get in touch. You can contact us via the number below, online chat, call-back request or fill out our claim form.