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Shortness of Breath and Chronic Cough Can Point to Serious Conditions

Cough and Sarcoidosis

Chronic coughing should be investigated by a trip to the doctor as it could be a sign of something deadly: the danger of asbestos.


Questions about that chronic cough and it's significance. Sleep Apnea can be related to lung scarring.

According to NIH OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) can cause lung scarring. OSA is the diagnosis when the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) is greater than 5 episodes per hour. OSA is prevalent in patients with IPF (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis) and as such may be under recognized by many PCP. This is usually officially diagnosed when a patient has been sent for a overnight visit to a sleep center for a sleep study. There they attach electrodes to the person's body to register if they indeed are experiencing episodes of apnea, or not breathing. Snoring is a good indicator that there is some form of apnea or blocked airway.

PFT pulmonary function tests are used to help with the diagnosis of IPF (interstitial pulmonary fibrosis). Reference: American Thoracic Society 2000. GERD - gastric esophageal reflux disease is also closely related to OSA and IPF.

Night sweats are also a frequently seen symptom. Two main causes of scarring, one: sarcoidosis granuloma formation and this can be present in the lungs or the heart.

  • Sarcoidosis is found in 15% of people may have problems with their bones resulting in arthritis.
  • IPF can lead to cardiomyopathy where there is an enlargement and/or thickening of the heart.
  • Hypertrophic... EKG done should show if there are any change in electricity of the heart.
  • Stress test (either physical or chemical) to check limitations in heart function with increased activity. Fibromyalgia-this is an autoimmune disorder where the body produces too much of the chemicals that help the body perceive pain.

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IPF scarring and/or thickening of lung tissue that makes it hard for the body to take in oxygen. This can lead to pulmonary hypertension, heart attack, stroke and various lung infections. Also decreased exercise tolerance. Happens more often in males over 50, those who smoke, and those who have exposure to gases or fumes (such as factories or travel industry).

Asbestos-lung disease can be seen on x-rays sometimes referred to as chest films.

It causes scarring of lung tissue (asbestosis). It can lead to lung cancer inside of the lungs. It can also occur on the outside of the lungs and peritoneum (lining around the abdomen) and is referred to as mesothelioma. It is diagnosed by biopsy obtained by the doctor placing a special scope down into the lungs and taking a piece of tissue or by actually cutting into the chest cavity and removing a piece of tissue from the outside of the lungs in the suspected area. Time between exposure to asbestos and development of disease can be 10 to 50 years and can show up as what is called a pleural effusion. In this condition the lung tissue becomes scarred. People who have been diagnosed with asbestosis are at a greater risk for lung cancer, especially if they smoke.

Workers in plants that still make use of or did make use of asbestos in their manufacturing of machinery were exposed to asbestos dust. Boilers, large vessels that create hot water and steam for use around the plant, were insulated with asbestos, and often lined within with asbestos refractory. The boilers were attached to a network of pipes that were insulated with asbestos. These boilers and pipes were connected to pumps, valves, and other machines using asbestos gaskets to create seals. Gaskets were also an essential component of the many pumps, valves, and gauges used to move and monitor fluids within the plant. These gaskets often had to be cut to size from large sheets of asbestos, which would release fibers into the air. The old gaskets needed to be wire brushed and scraped. At this point, the wear from the heat and moisture had made these gaskets brittle, so they would crumble to dust as they were removed and replaced. Pumps and valves also used asbestos patches. Also at one time much of the insulation placed in houses and other buildings contained asbestos.

Another industry that could lead to exposure is the companies who produce air conditioning on a business size like to cool entire buildings. This exposure effected not just the worker but often the entire family was exposed as well. This happened when the worker brought it home on his clothing. Once the worker returned home they brought with them millions of microscopic asbestos fibers clinging to their hair, skin, and shoes. When they showered or removed their clothes, these particles would shake loose and contaminate the air of their homes. Asbestos is dangerous in any amount; there is no safe level of exposure. Cases of mesothelioma have been shown to come from a single asbestos exposure.

It is very important to investigate any prolonged cough with the doctor and to stop smoking.