How fingers and toes may change in response to asbestos illnesses

On Behalf of | Mar 17, 2023 | asbestos

Professionals who have been exposed to asbestos on the job and their close family members may eventually develop a host of different and potentially very serious medical issues. Multiple types of cancer, including lung cancer and mesothelioma, have a strong association with asbestos exposure.

There are other medical issues, like asbestosis, that people can also develop because of the ways in which inhaled particulate asbestos damages the lungs. These conditions frequently result in respiratory symptoms, weight loss or fatigue that are dramatic enough to inspire a patient to speak with a medical professional when they are initially in search of a diagnosis. However, in some cases, it is changes in a patient’s fingers, toes or nails that inspire them to seek out a medical evaluation.

Clubbed digits are often a warning sign of major issues

Clubbing of the fingers or toes involves changes to the shape and color of the tips of each digit, as well as changes in the nails. Although a small percentage of people who develop clubbing issues simply inherit the trait from family members, most reported incidents of clubbing relate to another medical issue.

A significant percentage of clubbing cases involve serious cancers, like lung cancer. Despite the strong association between the changes to someone’s finger or nail shape and their cancer risk, only a small percentage of those eventually sickened by asbestos will experience clubbed fingers or toes.

Clubbing often happens gradually, making it easy for people to overlook. The tips of each finger or toe may begin to bulge, while the nails curve downward. Often, the fingertips and nail beds become red. Ridge nails and shiny tissue are also warning signs of clubbing.

Although these changes are often painless and occur over many months, they are a warning sign that someone may have medical issues like lung cancer or other lung diseases like asbestosis that require medical treatment.

People secure better care when doctors know their risk factor

All too often, people with environmental exposure concerns, like handling asbestos in the workplace, do not effectively communicate about those issues with their doctors. A medical professional might waste time performing unnecessary tests because they are unaware of someone’s professional history of handling asbestos.

Workers who both communicate proactively with their healthcare providers and monitor themselves for warning signs of conditions like lung cancer can improve their chances of getting timely care and potentially benefiting from a better prognosis. Learning more about asbestos-related diseases is important for those who have handled or otherwise been exposed to this dangerous substance in the past.