What is pleural thickening?


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The ‘pleura’ is the fine membrane which makes up the lining of the lungs. Sometimes (often after exposure to asbestos), small areas of scar tissue form on the pleura, this is known as pleural plaque. If this occurs, it isn’t usually serious, but if often the beginning of pleural thickening.

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Symptoms of pleural thickening

The most common symptoms of pleural thickening include:

  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pain (particularly after physical exercise)
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Reduced lung capacity

If you have any of the above symptoms and have been exposed to asbestos during your life, you should go and see your GP or a medical professional who will follow the necessary steps. Usually an x-ray or scan will be done which will reveal any presence of asbestos related diseases.

Treatment of pleural thickening

After being diagnosed with pleural thickening, your doctor will explain to you that there is no cure and that the damage is irreversible. However, he or she will aim to manage your symptoms. This is usually done by prescribing painkillers, bronchodilators, steroids and/or antibiotics.

Sometime people have a build-up of fluid on their lungs. In these instances doctors may perform a 'thoracentesis' to drain the fluid. In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove parts of the pleura. However, please note that this is extremely rare.

How does pleural thickening occur?

Pleural thickening occurs when the scar tissue hardens and reduces space between the lungs and the pleura.

Asbestos – a mineral which was widely used throughout the twentieth century – is a dangerous substance. Though its qualities make it a great material to work with (versatile, fire resistant, durable are just some examples), it has now been banned as exposure to the substance can have serious health effects on an individual.

When exposed to asbestos, fibres can be embedded in the lungs when inhaled. In the short term, this can cause pleural plaques forming and the lungs being scarred. Though not initially a problem, in the longer term, more serious illnesses can develop such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and pleural thickening.

Can I make a claim?

If you have a health condition or illness which is a result of exposure to asbestos, you may be entitled to make a claim. You should speak to a solicitor as soon as possible after your diagnosis who will assist you in proceeding.

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