Pneumonitis appears as a result of the inflammation produced by asbestos fibers in the lungs
Most of the lung diseases resulting from asbestos exposure have been experienced by former industrial workers and military veterans whose jobs exposed them to airborne asbestos fibers over a period of many years with no respiratory protection and no personal protective equipment. Poorly ventilated and closed working spaces with a high rate of asbestos material disturbances led to high rates of asbestos exposure in these workers.
The asbestos fibers cause irritation, inflammation and scarring, which cause symptoms that primarily affect the lungs. Pneumonitis is classified into several different subtypes, including hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis – an interstitial lung disease - is caused by repeated and long-term exposure to hazardous substances that are inevitably inhaled into the lungs.
Over time, some people with chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis and with a history of substantial occupational exposure to asbestos develop clubbing of fingers and toes and irreversible pulmonary fibrosis. If the condition goes untreated or is not well controlled over time, the chronic inflammation can cause irreversible scarring of the lungs that may severely impair pulmonary function.
Due to the permanent scarring of lung tissue caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers, patients with chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis may suffer recurrent exacerbations, with a worsening of symptoms that can lead to frequent hospital admissions.