Asbestosis is a rare but serious lung condition that affects people exposed to asbestos (a building material used from the 1950s to the 1990s). It cannot be cured, but treatment may improve the symptoms.
You may be able to claim compensation if you get asbestosis.
Symptoms of asbestosis
Symptoms of asbestosis include:
- shortness of breath
- persistent cough
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- pain in your chest or shoulder
- in more advanced cases, clubbed (swollen) fingertips
It can take 20 to 30 years after being exposed to asbestos before symptoms appear.
There are sometimes no symptoms.
Causes of asbestosis
Asbestosis is caused by exposure to asbestos.
You may have been exposed to asbestos if you worked in an industry such as building or construction, particularly from the 1950s to the 1990s.
You could be exposed to asbestos today if your job involves working in certain roles in old buildings.
- heating and ventilation engineers
- demolition workers
- construction workers
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- you have symptoms of asbestosis and think you've been exposed to asbestos
Tests for asbestosis
A GP will listen to your lungs and ask about your work history.
They may refer you to a specialist in lung diseases for more tests if they think you might have asbestosis.
Tests may include:
Treatment for asbestosis
There's no cure for asbestosis once it has developed, as it's not possible to reverse the damage to the lungs.
But some treatments can help, including:
- pulmonary rehabilitation – a programme of exercises and education to help manage your symptoms
- oxygen therapy – breathing in oxygen-rich air from a machine or tank to help improve breathlessness if your blood oxygen levels are low
- using an inhaler to ease breathing (if your symptoms are mild)
Things you can do to help with asbestosis
If you have asbestosis, there are things you can do to help ease the symptoms and lower your chances of getting infections.
Government compensation scheme for asbestosis
Find out if you're eligible to claim compensation through the industrial injuries disablement benefit on GOV.UK.
You can also get advice on benefits and compensation on the Asthma and Lung UK website.
Page last reviewed: 31 July 2023
Next review due: 31 July 2026