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There is much confusion about the different types of benign (or non-cancerous) pleural diseases, mainly because different researchers and doctors use different words to describe the same things, or the same words to describe different things.

This is a discussion about pleural diseases that are related to asbestos exposure, are not malignant (like mesothelioma), and exist only in the pleura.They can be divided into three groups: plaques, thickening, and effusions.

Pleural plaques are small, hard, plate-like surfaces on the pleura, similar to arteriosclerosis in coronary arteries. They are caused by asbestos fibers that invade the pleura from the lungs. Medical researchers do not fully understand the underlying processes of why asbestos fibers cause plaques to develop.

Plaques rarely make breathing difficult and by themselves are seldom disabling. Rather, they are "markers" that indicate previous exposure to asbestos: they can help to confirm the cause of other diseases that might otherwise not be understood to be asbestos-related. However, a person who has plaques should be vigilant about his or her health. He or she may be at higher risk for developing other asbestos-related diseases and should therefore advise his or her doctor about this asbestos exposure.

Pleural thickening is a diffuse fibrosis in the pleura. Asbestos fibers that move from the lung to the pleura cause the pleura to thicken and a widespread fibrosis can develop. Researchers do not understand the underlying processes by which asbestos fibers cause fibrosis.

This thickening can restrict the lungs' ability to expand and contract, and therefore make breathing difficult. Like plaques, thickening is evidence of exposure to asbestos and it places people at higher risk of developing other more serious chest diseases.

An asbestos-related benign pleural effusion refers to a build-up of fluid in the pleural space of a person who was exposed to asbestos and who does not have any other disease that might cause a pleural effusion (such as mesothelioma.)Some effusions cause chest pains, but many do not cause any symptoms. This type of benign pleural effusion is treatable, and it should also alert the person to be especially vigilant about his or her respiratory health.

Most people with pleural plaques, effusions and/or thickening do not have any symptoms. They can be diagnosed using chest x-rays and CT scans.


This information should not be taken as a diagnosis in any way. If you have symptoms of any of the asbestos related diseases, see your doctor immediately.


Consulting with a solicitor in relation to a possible claim for damages is perceived as a daunting experience. This perception is often made worse when the client has contracted an asbestos condition, and in particular one of a malignant nature. However, it is important that you and your family are fully aware of your rights so that an informed decision can be made.

It is critically important that you seek legal advice from a solicitor experienced in Asbestos Litigation.

Please call AussieLegal on 1300 728 200 for assistance and a referral to a recommended specialist law firm.

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