Asbestos fibers represent a high risk by causing various health problems to those exposed over a long time. Because it was an affordable insulation material with heat resistance, asbestos was used in nearly every part of Navy ships for about thirty to forty years. Consequently, people in the Navy from the 1930s through the 1980s have been at higher risk of asbestos exposure during active service and have increased chances of developing asbestos-related diseases.
The inhaled microscopic asbestos fibers cause lung scarring and decreased lung compliance, which prevents taking full, deep breaths. Complications from inhaling the asbestos fibers may not show until decades after initial exposure, so new cases are bound to surface given the routine asbestos exposure of those who served in the Navy before the early 1980s. Asbestos exposure is linked to the development of cancers like:
- bronchial cancer
- lung cancer
- laryngeal cancer
- gastrointestinal cancer
- pharyngeal cancer
- colorectal cancer
- esophageal cancer
- urogenital cancer
The microscopic fibers can become trapped in the lung tissue irritating it and causing inflammation and scarring. After a period, tumors may form due to continuous cell irritation and can develop into cancerous conditions. The same irritation can lead to benign asbestos diseases:
- pulmonary fibrosis
- lung nodules and spots
- chronic bronchitis
Even if diagnosed with a benign asbestos-related disease doesn't make you eligible for compensation, with the high risk of these illnesses turning into cancer, an asbestos-related cancer diagnosis will qualify you to file a claim.
Reduced Lung Expanding Capacity and Asbestos Exposure
Inhaled asbestos fibers can penetrate the lining of the lungs and get caught and lodged in the lining, sometimes tearing it as the lungs are trying to push them out - the inflammatory process results in difficulty breathing.
A signature side effect of impaired breathing is below-normal oxygen levels in the blood, causing dizziness, confusion, rapid breathing, and a fast heartbeat. A relevant sign of lung malfunctioning is shortness of breath, but there are specific symptoms that appear along with the sensation of running short of oxygen:
- a tight sensation in the chest
- pain with inspiration
- heart palpitation
Many veterans have problems with breathing after leaving military service, mainly described as being compelled to take a full breath before even finishing the last exhale to relieve the frightening fear of asphyxiation. Inhaled medicines can help significantly to bring relief.
Alleviating Veterans' Breathing Problems
Inhalers deliver a dose of medicine directly into the lungs, either as a mist or dry powder. They carry bronchodilators that help the tense muscles around the airways relax. The treatment helps open the airways, thus allowing breathing more easily. The main inhaler types prescribed for treating obstructive lung diseases are:
- Metered Dose Inhalers (MDIs) - have a pressured pressurized canister of medicine in a plastic holder with a mouthpiece. When sprayed, it gives a consistent dose of medication. It can be utilized with spacers and chambers that help inhale the aerosol. MDI inhalers usually do not require a spacer, but it may be helpful if you have difficulty timing the spray with inhalation.
- Dry Powder Inhalers (DPIs) - contain medications in a dry powder form. The device delivers the powdered medicine to the lungs when you breathe in. It doesn't need coordination of pressing the canister with inhaling. There are two types: multiple-dose devices with up to 200 doses and a counter to see how many doses of medication remain. Single-dose devices require placing a capsule in the device immediately before each treatment.
- Soft Mist Inhalers (SMIs) - release treatment in a fine mist that comes out more slowly and lasts longer in the air than the aerosol produced by MDIs. It releases the medication when pressing a button on the side of the inhaler while breathing in. SMIs usually have a dose counter built in that turns red when the inhaler is nearly empty.
- Breath-Activated Inhalers (BAIs) - are handheld devices that deliver a dose of medicine as a mist upon inhalation.
Winter Can Be a Difficult Time for Veterans with Lung Problems
The asbestos-related degenerative processes in the lungs can be exacerbated due to the cold air, making winter the most challenging time for veterans with lung issues. Dry cold air and sudden shifts in the weather can irritate the airways, causing abundant mucus production that further hinders breathing normally. Staying indoors doesn't always help, as this can lead to an increase in respiratory illnesses like colds and flu.
Veterans suffering from lung affections stemming from asbestos exposure should keep an adequate supply of medication(s) at all times to ensure the continuity of the treatment followed. It's advisable to have a spare inhaler and use the prescribed products, as they are adapted to individual needs. The VA National Formulary lists the following clinically reviewed inhalers available for prescribing at all VA facilities:
- Albuterol or Proventil
- Striverdi Respimat
- Spiriva Respimat
- Breztri Aerosphere
- Airduo Digihaler
- Stiolto Respimat
- Symbicort (now replaced with Wixela Inhub)
Because asbestos exposure can trigger or aggravate asthma, veterans suffering from inflammation of the air passages can consult their doctor about inhalers for asthma relief rated best according to Medical News Today:
- Primatene Mist for short-term relief
- Asthmanefrin for bronchial asthma
- Trelegy for long-term use
- Pulmicort Flexhaler for the maintenance phase
Veterans Diagnosed with Malignant Asbestos-Related Respiratory Conditions Are Eligible for VA Compensation
Service-connected respiratory conditions are evaluated and rated by the VA as disability measured on a schedule and awarded in percentage, which will establish the overall disability rating and the amount of compensation. The veteran's respiratory system functionality is evaluated and graded after specific criteria:
- inhalation capacity of the lungs
- oxygen absorption in the lungs
- exhalation volume
Respiratory disorders are classified and assessed upon data from pulmonary function tests. The VA then implements the rating that accurately shows the patient's general condition. As the disability rating system is complex, understanding the evaluation process can be daunting. Consulting an attorney helps you handle the whole process and ensures your benefits will be calculated correctly. We can assist you in connecting with experienced attorneys who can help to get the compensation you deserve.