There are two main types of non-malignant pleural diseases which affect that outer lining of the pleura – diffuse pleural thickening and pleural plaques. Both conditions are usually associated with exposure to asbestos over a long period of time.
Pleural thickening occurs when asbestos fibres are inhaled into the lungs and the fibres work their way out and embed themselves in the pleura, which is the thin membrane which lines the lungs and the inside of the rib cage. When the asbestos fibres become lodged in the pleura it can cause fibrosis, scarring, calcification and thickening of the pleura. When the pleura thickens it reduces the elasticity of the lungs and contributes to a reduced lung function causing symptoms in sufferers such as shortness of breath, and chest pains. Pleural thickening is a benign condition but it should be diagnosed, treated, and monitored by a doctor otherwise there is potential for the condition to develop into a more serious asbestos related condition.
Diffuse pleural thickening is the more serious of the two conditions (more so than pleural plaques) because the affected area extends over a larger area than with pleural plaques.
Workers that have developed pleural thickening as a consequence of exposure to asbestos in the workplace are usually able to make a personal injury claim. If you have developed the condition due to your work environment you may wish to contact a personal injury solicitor to seek advice on whether you could claim for pleural thickening compensation.
Pleural plaques are similar to pleural thickening in that it is a condition that affects the pleura causing scarring to occur, but the scarring is localised to rather than in large areas as is the case with diffuse pleural thickening. Also in contrast to pleural thickening, people suffering from pleural plaques do not usually suffer from reduced lung function.
Pleural plaques are a less serious condition than diffuse pleural thickening and in many cases there are no symptoms and sufferers can lead a perfectly normal life uninhibited by the condition. Furthermore, there is no evidence to suggest that someone that has pleural plaques is more likely to go on to suffer from a more serious asbestos related disease such as mesothelioma or asbestosis.
If no symptoms of pleural disease are seen then it is not usually necessary to require any treatment for pleural plaques, although it is advisable (as it is even if you are perfectly healthy) that if you are a smoker you should consider quitting.