Treating asbestosis

There are no treatments available to cure asbestosis. However, you can take steps to relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

These are outlined below.

Not smoking

If you have been diagnosed with asbestosis and you smoke, it is very important to give up as soon as possible.

Smoking will make your symptoms of breathlessness worse, and significantly increase your risk of developing lung cancer. Your asbestosis is more likely to get worse if you smoke as well.

Speak to your GP for help with giving up smoking. They can advise about nicotine replacement therapies and prescription medicines, such as bupropion, which can greatly increase your chances of quitting successfully. Your GP can also put you in touch with local support groups in your area.

You can also call the NHS Smokefree helpline (0800 022 4332) to get more help and advice about quitting smoking.

Read more information about stopping smoking.


If you have asbestosis, your lungs will be more vulnerable to the effects of infection. Therefore, it is recommended you receive the influenza vaccination and a vaccination against the pneumococcus bacterium, which can cause serious conditions such as pneumonia. Your GP can arrange for you to have these vaccinations.

You will need the influenza vaccine every year. Most people only require one dose of the pneumococcus vaccine, although additional booster shots may be recommended if your general health is poor.

Read more information about pneumococcal infections.

Long-term oxygen therapy

If you have severe asbestosis, your body may not be getting all the oxygen it needs to function properly. If this is the case, oxygen therapy may be supplied through a machine called an oxygen concentrator. This form of treatment may be recommended if you have low levels of oxygen in your blood.

An oxygen concentrator is plugged into a mains socket. It purifies oxygen from the air in the room, which produces a more oxygen-rich supply of air. The oxygen-rich air can then be breathed in through a mask. The oxygen is breathed through a small soft plastic tube (nasal cannula), which is placed just inside your nostrils.

Do not smoke when you are using an oxygen concentrator. It produces an increased level of oxygen that is highly flammable, and a lit cigarette or flame could cause a fire or an explosion.

Ambulatory oxygen

In addition to the oxygen concentrator, you may be given a small, portable oxygen tank and mask, which you can use when you leave your house. This is known as ambulatory oxygen.


The aim of treating asbestosis is to improve symptoms, such as shortness of breath, and to improve the person’s overall quality of life. Most people with asbestosis will not benefit from any specific medication for the condition. More severe cases may benefit from medicines, such as small doses of morphine, to reduce breathlessness and cough. Extra oxygen can also be given to someone if their blood oxygen levels are low.


Morphine in small doses is often used for patients with severe asbestosis. It has two main benefits:

  • reducing the sensation of breathlessness
  • suppressing the urge to cough

The dose required to achieve these benefits is usually small. Serious side effects are uncommon. The most common problem is constipation, and a laxative will usually be given at the same time.

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