Asbestos - Pleural Disease

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What is pleural disease?

Another type of lung disease that is linked to asbestos exposure involves the lining of the lungs, called the pleura. Harmless disease of the pleura is often the only manifestation of asbestos exposure. There are a number of different changes that can occur in the pleura with asbestos exposure. Pleural plaques (described above) may develop from fibers that migrate out to the outside edge of the lungs and cause scarring of the pleura. Pleural "calcification" may occur from calcium deposits in areas of prior damage.

Fluid may accumulate around the lung. This fluid collection, called an effusion, can be the first sign of asbestos-related disease. Often, these fluid collections have no associated symptoms, resolve on their own, and recur sporadically. However, some patients may experience pain or bleeding around their lungs. "Diffuse pleural thickening," which means a generalized thickening of the lining of the lung, can occur as well. The thickened pleura may form a peel of scar tissue and even affect the lung's ability to expand. This condition may cause a significant shortness of breath. Diffuse pleural thickening is considered a later-onset consequence of repeated fluid accumulations.

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