Exposure to asbestos fibers can have a deadly impact on an individual’s lungs and other internal organs. Unfortunately, the pattern of exposure and symptoms do not always follow a set progression. The same type and duration of exposure can mean a different pattern of symptoms for different people. Medical professionals face challenges reaching a fast, accurate diagnosis for these reasons.
The confusion of overlapping symptoms
Asbestos exposure often leads to mesothelioma, a progressive lung disease. Unfortunately, numerous early symptoms of the condition mirror other illnesses. For example, individuals often struggle with fatigue, chest pain and wheezing which can mirror the symptoms of emphysema. Additionally, difficulty breathing, coughing and abnormal mucus production can also be confused with bronchitis or other chest infections.
These nonspecific symptoms can challenge diagnosticians and prevent a timely course of treatment. The longer the condition goes undiagnosed, the longer the victim will suffer and experience progressively worsening symptoms.
The challenge of secondary exposure
In addition to the difficulty posed by overlapping and nonspecific symptoms, medical professionals must contend with the possibility of secondary exposure. Also referred to as domestic exposure or familial exposure, this phenomenon occurs when an individual who did not directly work with asbestos is exposed by someone who did. Exposure in this manner can be just as deadly, but harder to diagnose because the physician must link the exposure through contaminated clothing or toxic material on the hands.
Asbestos exposure can lead to life-changing conditions such as mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer. When a medical professional misses or delays a diagnosis or the diagnosis, the victim can suffer unnecessary pain and the danger of worsening symptoms.