What is pleural thickening?
Pleural thickening is a disease that affects the lungs. There are a number of possible reasons for pleural thickening, including injury, TB and certain prescription medications, but exposure to asbestos is a leading cause.
In itself, pleural thickening can be a disabling condition which reduces the quality of life of the sufferer. Many people have to give up their work or life-long hobbies because of the severity of their symptoms.
Pleural thickening is an indicator that somebody has been exposed to asbestos. Compensation can be paid for people’s incapacitating symptoms and their increased risk of other asbestos related diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Why is the illness called pleural thickening?
The condition gets its name from the pleura – two membranes that layer to surround and protect the lungs. The ‘thickening’ occurs when the lungs areaffected by the asbestos. The pleural membranes become hardened and the thickening makes it harder for the lungs to function.
There are two types of pleural thickening:
1) Diffuse pleural thickening. This type of thickening and hardening is usually spread over a large area of the lungs and can seriously interfere with breathing.
2) Pleural plaques are smaller areas of thickened lung lining. Although they do not usually affect breathing, they can be present in combination with other asbestos related conditions.
What are pleural thickening symptoms?
As the disease affects the lungs- the most common symptoms relate to breathing difficulties:
- Tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- A persistent coughing
- Pain in the Chest
- Reduced lung capacity and function
Is the condition life threatening?
By itself, the condition is debilitating, but not life threatening. Pleural thickening that is unrelated to asbestos exposure is rarely treated. When pleural thickening is suspected to have been caused by asbestos exposure, it is usually carefully monitored and treated as a possible warning sign of lung cancer or mesothelioma.
How do I get diagnosed for pleural thickening and can it be treated?
Pleural thickening is usually diagnosed by X-ray or CT scan. Clinical staff will analyse the image for areas that are unusually thick or hardened. If the problem is severe, further tests may be given to check if the thickening is benign or is related to a cancerous condition like mesothelioma.
If the thickening is judged to be benign, then adjusting lifestyle factors can improve lung capacity and reduce the symptoms of pleural thickening.