About 14 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with emphysema
Emphysema affects a large number of people all over the world. The Global Burden of Disease Study conducted in the year 2016 reported 251 million people were diagnosed with COPD worldwide.
Currently, COPD is the fourth leading cause of death globally and the third leading cause of death in the United States. The estimates from the WHO suggest that COPD is going to be the third most common cause of death globally by the year 2020.
A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health in the year 2004 evaluated the relationship between asbestos exposure and emphysema by performing high-resolution CT on 600 participants (construction workers with a smoking habit and a diagnosis of asbestos-related disease).
The study concluded that emphysema was more common among workers with asbestosis and a history of heavy exposure to asbestos. Common signs and symptoms of emphysema:
The initial sign of developing emphysema is feeling short of breath during exertional exercises. You may feel difficulty in breathing even with walking and light exercise as the disease progresses further and eventually breathing gets difficult even while resting. Other symptoms include:
- A persistent cough
- Frequent upper respiratory tract infections
- Feeling tired easily/lack of energy
A vast majority of COPD diagnoses are linked to smoking but sometimes advanced age and past exposure to dangerous asbestos fibers have been thought to be the cause of the disease as well. It is to be noted that although asbestos exposure is not a direct cause of COPD, it does elevate an individual’s risk of developing COPD. Moreover, patients with COPD already have a weakened respiratory system that makes them more susceptible to asbestos-related lung diseases. COPD may develop as a complication in patients with asbestosis and pleural mesothelioma, both caused by asbestos exposure.
In a Swedish study that included 316,729 construction workers, it was reported that the death rate due to COPD was about two and a half times higher in workers exposed to asbestos in comparison to those who had not been exposed to asbestos. In 2011, the Environmental Health Journal published a study that revealed the fact that COPD due to occupational exposure to toxic fumes resulted in about 375,000 deaths globally in a year.