Diagnosing Asbestosis

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The word "asbestosis" is sometimes used as meaning any asbestos related disease. This can lead to confusion. Properly, asbestosis only means pulmonary fibrosis caused by asbestos.

Pulmonary Fibrosis is the name given to a number of diseases which affect the lung (or lungs) by damaging the internal structures. The natural tissue is altered, causing it to become scarred and fibrous.

Typical symptoms will be shortness of breath and persistent coughing.

Asbestosis Facts

DEATHS RELATED TO ASBESTOSIS IN 2015Deaths recorded as a result of Asbestosis (on death certificate).Source: HSERECORDEDASBESTOSIS
NEW ASBESTOSIS CASESThere has been a long-term upward trend in both deaths and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) cases, though with substantial fluctuations year-on-year in IIDB cases, particularly in recent years.Increases in annual numbers of deaths have been driven mainly by cases above age 75 years.Source: IIDB985 NEW CASES1775 NEW CASES20142015


To diagnose asbestosis you will first need to see your doctor. The doctor has to identify a number of important features. Other causes of pulmonary fibrosis have to be excluded. You will have to answer questions regarding your occupational history, and in particular any periods when you may have been exposed to asbestos. If you can recall any such exposure you will have to answer questions regarding duration of exposure and whether you were provided with any safety equipment.

If your doctor suspects you might have asbestosis, you will receive referral to a lung disease specialist who will test for any scarring to the lung. The chest specialist will also look at the possibility that your lung inflammation and scarring might be caused by another condition – for example, rheumatoid arthritis.

Although performing a biopsy to test for the presence of asbestos fibres in an affected lung is a failsafe way to diagnose asbestosis, such biopsies are rarely performed for this purpose in the UK.

However, the chest physician will perform a number of tests. These are likely to include:

  • Discussing work history or other sources of asbestos exposure
  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • Spirometry - air flow measurements
  • Pulmonary function tests - more complex breathing tests measuring lung volumes and transfer of gas

The features that would point the chest physician towards a diagnosis of asbestosis are:

  • A history of substantial exposure to asbestos
  • Pleural Plaques visible on x-ray or CT scan
  • Fibrosis visible on x-ray or CT scan, predominately affecting the lower parts and the edges of the lungs
  • Crackles heard by the doctor when listening to the patient's chest through a stethoscope
  • Shortness of breath which the breathing tests show to be the result of reduced lung volumes or reduced gas transfer or a combination of these (as opposed to reduced air flow)
  • Relative stability or only gradual progression of symptoms over a period rather than rapid deterioration.

Contact Thompsons Lung Disease Lawyers Today

If you would like more information about claiming compensation for asbestosis or any other industrial disease, please call our lawyers FREE on 0800 0891331 and speak to a specialist for advice, assistance and information.

Thompsons Solicitors is one of the largest personal injury firms in Scotland and is committed to client-first service. We speak in plain English, offer a No Win No Fee service and win our clients around £1 million each week for those who choose us. More information about claiming for asbestosis can be found here.

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