If you served in the military or worked in construction, manufacturing, or a trade, you may have been exposed to asbestos fibers or dust. Breathing or ingesting asbestos can lead to serious diseases such as pleural plaques.
Pleural plaques are thickened tissue that develops on the pleural between the lungs and chest wall. They are not cancerous in themselves but could indicate a higher risk of malignant tumors. You may not even be aware you have developed pleural plaques, but if you were exposed to asbestos, you should get in touch with a lawyer as soon as possible to go over your compensation options.
Pleural plaques are almost always formed after exposure to asbestos and may take many years to form. People inhale asbestos typically used in many industries to fireproof products exposed to high heat, strengthen them, such as additives to cement, and insulate them, such as home siding. The inhaled fibers or dust travel through the respiratory, blood, and lymphatic systems and settle in the lining of the lungs.
Asbestos fibers trigger an immune response involving pleural macrophages, special cells found in the lungs, which can cause inflammation that thickens into fibrosis. Fibrosis occurs when healthy lung tissue is replaced with collagen fibers (scar tissue.) Although most pleural plaques are asymptomatic, they can cause decreased lung function. Some people complain of painful breathing or pleural friction rub, a creaking sound emitted as the calcified or inflamed pleural layers rub together when breathing.
In about 20 percent of pleural plaque cases, the plaques calcify. As they build, the scar tissue hardens. A dedicated attorney can review a person’s medical issues and advise on whether legal action is a possibility.
Many cases of pleural plaque are diagnosed by accident when a patient submits to an imaging scan for another reason, such as a broken rib.
An X-ray usually will disclose pleural plaques as thickened edges of nodules around the lungs. If the plaques are calcified, they appear on the lungs as translucent white deposits.
CT scans are more efficient than X-rays for identifying pleural plaques, even those that are not calcified. The CT scan success rate in diagnosing cases of pleural plaque is between 95 and 100 percent.
People who were exposed to asbestos should consult with a physician about undergoing an imaging test for pleural plaques since they are not common in the general population. Any injury from inhaling asbestos in the workplace should be discussed with a competent lawyer familiar with asbestos-related diseases and compensation that may be available from asbestos trust funds or from a civil lawsuit against a manufacturer or employer.
Pleural plaques are not a guarantee you will develop mesothelioma or other asbestos-related cancers, but they are an indicator that you are at a higher risk of doing so. The lungs and other organs retain asbestos, and/or the cellular damage from asbestos, for as long as you live. Pleural plaques, like other asbestos-related illnesses, may not show up for decades, but you may be entitled to payments for shouldering this burden for a lifetime.
Because asbestos can cause various debilitating illnesses, you should be tested regularly if you were exposed to the fibers or dust in the past. If an illness is detected and attributed to asbestos, a seasoned lawyer can help hold the negligent manufacturer or employer responsible for providing compensation. Contact us to learn more.