Diagnosing asbestosis 

When diagnosing asbestosis, your GP will first ask about your symptoms and listen to your lungs with a stethoscope (a medical instrument used to listen to the heart and lungs).

If your lungs have been affected by asbestos, they will usually make a crackling noise when you breathe in.

Your GP will also ask about your work history, particularly about periods when you may have been exposed to asbestos, how long you may have been exposed, and whether you were issued with any safety equipment, such as a face mask, when you were working.

Referral to a specialist

If asbestosis is suspected, you will be referred to a specialist in lung diseases for tests to confirm any lung scarring. These may include: 

  • a chest X-ray – to detect abnormalities in the structure of your lungs that could be caused by asbestosis
  • a computerised tomography (CT) scan of the lungs – which produces more detailed images of the lungs and the membrane covering the lungs and can help identify less obvious abnormalities
  • lung function tests – to assess the impact of damage of the lungs, determine how much air your lungs can hold and assess how well oxygen crosses the membrane of the lungs into your bloodstream

Before confirming a diagnosis of asbestosis, the chest specialist will also consider and rule out other possible causes of lung inflammation and scarring, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Page last reviewed: 22/09/2014

Next review due: 22/09/2016