What is Pleural Thickening?

The “pleura” is the fine membrane which lines the lungs. Pleural plaque is the term for small areas of scar tissue which form on the pleura (often after exposure to asbestos) which aren’t usually serious, but which can act as a precursor to pleural thickening. Damage to the pleura can cause scar tissue to form which can harden and reduce the space between the lung and the pleura – this is called pleural thickening.  This results in breathing difficulties and chest pain and is a common symptom of asbestos exposure.

What is Asbestos and why is it Harmful?

Asbestos was widely used throughout the twentieth century as an industrial insulation material.  It’s versatile, fire retardant and almost impossible to damage or destroy.  It was frequently used in construction and as insulation in many buildings.  However, it is also known to cause lung disease and other respiratory problems and was banned in 1999.

Asbestos is a mineral comprised of tiny needle-shaped fibres which can become embedded in the lungs when inhaled.  In the short term, this leads to the formation of pleural plaques and scarring of the lungs.  In the longer term, more serious asbestos-related illnesses can develop including pleural thickening, mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. If you have developed any of these illnesses after being exposed to asbestos at work you may be able to claim compensation.

What should I do?

Most people who have been exposed to asbestos were exposed at work.  It may be that your employer didn’t take the necessary safety precautions to protect their staff. If you believe you may have been exposed to asbestos in the past and you experience chest pain or tightness, you should see your GP immediately and be sure to mention any past exposure to asbestos.  An X-ray or scan will reveal the presence of asbestos-related diseases such as pleural thickening.

Pleural plaques themselves are not considered to be a serious condition.  Although they often form after asbestos exposure and may be a precursor to asbestos-related diseases, pleural plaques alone are not a basis for making a claim. Symptoms of pleural thickening include:

  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pain (more obvious after physical exertion)
  • Chest tightness
  • Reduced lung capacity

Treatment

Unfortunately, the damage is irreversible, so your doctor will aim to manage the symptoms.  It’s common to prescribe painkillers, bronchodilators, steroids and antibiotics.  In cases where there is fluid build-up in the lungs, doctors may perform a “thoracentosis” to drain the fluid and relieve pressure in the lungs.  In the most extreme cases, surgery to remove parts of the pleura may be recommended.  This is rare and is only considered an option in the severest cases. Pleural thickening can be benign or malignant.  The malignant form is known as mesothelioma.

How Should I Make a Claim?

If you believe you may have been exposed to asbestos at work and you are experiencing health problems such as pleural thickening, you may be entitled to make a claim.  You should speak to a solicitor as soon as possible as there are strict time limits imposed on submitting your claim. 

If it can be proven that you were exposed to asbestos due to the negligence of your employer, then you have a good case for making a claim. To find out more about how Cute Injury can help, get in touch today..

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