What are the Causes of Pleural Thickening?

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Pleural disease affects the pleural lining of the lungs. When these thin membranes become scarred and thickened, it is medically termed as pleural thickening. It can be limited to one location (focal scarring) or become widespread (diffuse scarring). Pleural plaque is the other name for focal scarring. In most cases, Pleural thickening is harmless. Diffuse pleural thickening is non-malignant in nature. Prolonged exposure to highly concentrated asbestos fibers causes pleural thickening.

Pleural disease affects the pleural lining of the lungs. When these thin membranes become scarred and thickened, it is medically termed as pleural thickening. It can be limited to one location (focal scarring) or become widespread (diffuse scarring). Pleural plaque is the other name for focal scarring. In most cases, Pleural thickening is harmless. Diffuse pleural thickening is non-malignant in nature. Prolonged exposure to highly concentrated asbestos fibers causes pleural thickening. Asbestos fibers are very thin and easily carried by air which can  penetrate the lungs. Once they are in the lungs, these toxic elements reach pleura of the lungs causing scarring. This disorder is highly prevalent in civil construction, mining and shipping workforce. During the 1970s, a stringent anti-asbestos regulation was passed. Clinical studies suggested that pleural thickening has direct correlation with mesothelioma and asbestosis. Both these ailments are caused by asbestos exposure. Pleural thickening can also occur due to sarcoidosis and tuberculosis. 

 

 

What are the other causes for Pleural Thickening?
Pleural thickening occurs due to the inflammation in the lungs. In addition to asbestos exposure, pleural thickening may occur due to the following factors:

  • Infection
  • Tuberculosis
  • Bacterial Pneumonia
  • Pleural Effusion
  • Rheumatoid Lung Disease
  • Tumors (benign and malignant)
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Lung Contusions
  • Lupus
  • Pulmonary Embolisms (blood clots in the artery)

 

 

What are the Symptoms of Pleural Thickening?

Pleural thickening can cause mild to severe symptoms depending on the health of the individual. Pleural thickening causes fluid retention between the lungs and the lung linings. Chronic irritation is caused when asbestos particles lodge in the lungs. This causes difficulty in breathing. Pleural thickening is neither malignant nor a grave disease such as asbestosis. Most cases of pleural thickening do not develop symptoms or health problems. As a result, Pleural thickening diagnosis is often delayed. 

 

How is Pleural Thickening Diagnosed?

  •  In the initial stages, Chest Ultrasonography is usually recommended. In this test, an image is produced that distinctly displays pleural thickening apart from pleural fluid. White streak indicates the presence of asbestosis or lung fibrosis. It occurs due to asbestos exposure.
  • CT scan is recommended during later stages of the disease. The images exhibit tissue density present between the lungs and chest walls. This helps to determine whether the cause is benign or malignant. Nodular pleural thickening is malignant. Pleural thickening of more than 1 cm may be a sign of malignancy.

 

 

How is Pleural Thickening treated?

The mode of treatment depends on the cause. If pleural thickening is caused due to bacterial infection, antibiotics are recommended. In other cases, it is treated with anti-inflammatory medications, and oxygen to combat breathing difficulties that arise as a result of damage to the lungs. Surgery is advised to remove thickened pleura. Nodular pleural thickening is a very lethal form of cancer. It always worsens and is fatal.

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