Work-related asthma affects more than two million workers in the United States
Work-related asthma can be either new-onset asthma that develops due to repeated or long-term exposure to irritants in the workplace or pre-existing asthma that gets exacerbated at the workplace. New-onset asthma or occupational asthma occurs in about 15-30% of asthma patients. It is commonly associated with certain occupations that handle textiles, animal care, manufacturing and processing, automobile repairs, and refining operations that expose workers to dust, hazardous chemicals, and fibers that cause lung problems. Additionally, some people who already have asthma may be exposed to triggers such as allergens, irritants, and extremes in temperature or humidity at the workplace. Individuals with work-related asthma are symptomatic at work and tend to improve when they are away from work. More than 250 agents have been identified as workplace triggers that lead to occupational asthma.
Work-related asthma comprises up to 20% of adult asthma cases. Out of the work-related asthma cases, about 20-27% consist of patients with pre-existing asthma that gets aggravated at the workplace, and up to 80% are new patients who develop asthma because of workplace exposure. According to the American Lung Association, occupational lung diseases are the most common form of work-related illnesses.
The symptoms of asthma resemble those of pleural mesothelioma
The symptoms of occupational lung disease such as asthma may resemble other conditions, particularly mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma is likely to be misdiagnosed as asthma because of its common symptoms such as a chronic cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, and wheezing. As the signs and symptoms of malignant pleural mesothelioma are quite subtle, doctors often tend to attribute these to other common inflammatory lung diseases such as asthma and allergies. On the other hand, these symptoms develop gradually and emerge only after about 15-40 years of exposure to carcinogens including asbestos. Therefore, early diagnosis of mesothelioma becomes difficult. Here is a list of symptoms you need to watch out for:
- pain or pressure in the chest
- shortness of breath
- a persistent cough