Our lungs are made up of delicate tissue that is incredibly important to keep our body supplied with the oxygen necessary to carry out our daily activities. We have millions of tiny air sacs, called alveoli, that take oxygen from the air and transfer it to our bloodstream. When things go wrong with our lungs, it can result in serious problems because a decrease in oxygen can permanently affect our brains and bodies.
There are two lung problems that both affect the lining of the lungs, called the pleurae. The parietal pleura covers the inside wall of the thoracic cavity, including the ribs and diaphragm. The visceral pleura is responsible for protecting the lungs themselves. The area between the two pleurae is called the pleural space. The two disorders that harm this area are called pleural plaques and pleural effusions. While they both refer to problems in and around the pleural space, they do have some differences.
First, it is important to realize that while pleural plaques can occur on their own, effusions are more likely to be symptoms of another underlying disease, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, or congestive heart failure. On the other hand, plaques can form as a result of asbestos forming nodules in the lung tissue. Thus, while the two can both be tied back to asbestos exposure, it is not always a guaranteed cause of these lung problems.
Next, the two conditions affect the lungs in different ways. Asbestos can cause plaques in the lungs because when inhaled, the fibers become lodged in the tissue without breaking down. This causes the lungs to scar, affecting the parietal pleura. These scars can calcify and harden. While this may not cause any direct symptoms, it can often signal that someone is at risk for developing mesothelioma.
Pleural effusion, on the other hand, primarily affects the pleural space. Due to congestive heart failure, lung cancer, or sometimes asbestos exposure, this space becomes filled up with a naturally produced fluid. Although your body needs this fluid to keep its membranes from rubbing against one another and creating friction and irritation, it typically drains away by the lymphatic system. However, other health issues can make it difficult to drain away the lubricating fluid. When it builds up in the pleural space, it prevents the lungs from expanding, which makes you unable to take deep breaths.
While pleural problems may not be too dangerous on their own, they can signify the presence of another, more serious problem, or indicate that you may be at risk for lung cancer or mesothelioma. If you or someone that you know has developed pleural effusions or pleural plaques due to illegal asbestos exposure, you should speak to a lawyer about your options.
For more information regarding asbestos law, check out the asbestos attorneys at Williams Kherkher today.