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Non-malignant medical conditions caused by asbestos exposure

While mesothelioma has rightfully gained the most national recognition and attention, it bears knowing that there are several serious non-malignant medical conditions that can also result from prolonged exposure to asbestos fibrous dust. We’ll use this post to discuss the medical conditions affecting the pleural membranes, the layers of tissue protecting the lungs. While these medical conditions are not themselves cancerous, they may be a strong indicator of fatal conditions such as asbestosis and mesothelioma.


Pleural plaques

Among the general population, only about 8 percent of us may be diagnosed with pleura plaque. Among asbestos workers and their immediate family members, however, upward of 60 percent are affected. Pleural plaque is a non-malignant condition that thickens and eventually calcifies the rietal pleura, often on the diaphragm. While chest pain has been reported among people diagnosed with the condition, there has not yet been any conclusive confirmation of a relationship. Although no specific medical symptoms may cause distress in the patient, the diagnosis of plural plaque indicates a higher likelihood of developing cancerous diseases such as mesothelioma, often decades later.

Diffuse pleural thickening

It may take up to 40 years for asbestos workers and family members exposed to asbestos fiber dust to develop a condition known as diffuse pleural thickening (DPT), often an indicator of possible mesothelioma. International studies have indicated that as high as 22 percent of workers exposed to asbestos may suffer from DPT. This condition affects the visceral pleura, rather than the parietal pleura. Some studies indicate that the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the affect. The visceral pleura membrane develops an unusual compact density, which may range up to a centimeter thick and affect the tissue over the entire area of the lung. In cases of severe thickening, the condition often reduces the capacity of the lungs to diffuse oxygen supplied by the heart. Fortunately, most people diagnosed with the condition will suffer only mild respiratory and pulmonary symptoms.

Benign asbestos pleural infusion

This condition occurs when a layer of fluid develops between the parietal and visceral pleura, as a result of inhaling asbestos fiber dust. It often takes more than 10 years for symptoms to develop, which include painful breathing and elevated body temperature. Fortunately, the symptoms persist only a few months before disappearing but may sometimes result in diffuse pleural thickening. If diagnosed, there may be a likelihood of mesothelioma or asbestosis on the horizon.

Rounded atelectasis

This chronic condition is the least likely to be diagnosed in relation to asbestos exposure and is more commonly referred to as folded lung syndrome. While no adverse symptoms are directly related, the condition may be initially misdiagnosed by CT scan as a tumor, as it appears to be a mass of tissue near pleura thickening. Of the non-malignant conditions related to exposure to asbestos, this is a condition that may most often be related to non-asbestos medical conditions affecting the lungs.

Get the medical and legal help you need

If you or a member of your family once worked with or around asbestos and have now been diagnosed with one of these non-malignant conditions, it may be an indication that asbestosis or mesothelioma is on your horizon. Talk to an attorney at our firm to discuss your next steps.

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