Pleural thickening is a change in the lung’s lining (called the pleura), which may be a symptom of asbestos exposure and an asbestos-related cancer, pleural mesothelioma. Though getting this diagnosis is not good, it doesn’t necessarily mean your condition will progress to a fatal disease like mesothelioma.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber used in thousands of products in construction, manufacturing, and other industries because of its heat, fire, and electricity resistance. It was also widely available, cheap, and durable.
Asbestos fibers are also highly toxic and a potent cancer-causing substance. One malignancy it causes is pleural mesothelioma, a treatable but incurable cancer of the pleura. Asbestos use in the US largely stopped in the late 1970s, but it’s still used for limited purposes today.
What Causes Pleural Thickening?
Diffuse (or widespread) pleural thickening is where extensive, often smooth scarring, thickens large parts of the pleural membrane. Usually, the pleura is smooth, allowing the lungs to expand and contract as we breathe. However, in some cases, the pleura can become thickened, which can cause a range of symptoms and complications.
Pleural thickening can be caused by asbestos fibers lodged in the pleura and cause inflammation, leading to the development of scar tissue over time. This scar tissue can cause the pleura to thicken and become stiff, making it difficult for the lungs to expand and contract as we breathe.
There are several other potential causes of pleural thickening, including silica exposure, infections, autoimmune disorders, and certain types of cancer. Symptoms vary depending on the thickening’s cause and extent. Some with pleural thickening may have no symptoms, while others may experience chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing, or fatigue.
What are Pleural Thickening Symptoms?
Symptoms may take years or even decades to develop after asbestos exposure. Pleural thickening may also cause pleural effusions, a fluid buildup between the pleura and the lung. This can worsen other symptoms and lead to complications such as pneumonia or lung collapse.
Diagnosing pleural thickening and determining if it’s asbestos-related typically involves reviewing your medical history, physical examination, imaging tests such as X-rays or CT scans, and a biopsy of the affected tissue.
How is Pleural Thickening Treated?
Treatment for pleural thickening caused by asbestos exposure depends on the severity and the extent of symptoms. If it’s a mild case, there may not be any treatment. If the thickening is causing significant symptoms or complications, pulmonary rehabilitation may improve the situation and your quality of life. A team of specialists would develop a custom plan based on your needs.
If you are experiencing symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or coughing, consult a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment options. This is especially true if you have a history of asbestos exposure.
If you or a loved one recently received a mesothelioma diagnosis, or you work at a site known for asbestos exposure and are concerned about developing mesothelioma, you should understand your rights to compensation. Our experienced asbestos injury lawyers can discuss your situation with you and help you recover damages to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, and the pain and suffering you’ve endured.
To schedule a free initial consultation at our Louisville office, call us toll-free at 855-385-9532 or complete our contact form today.