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Posted on July 06th, 2020
Pleural plaques suggest that a person has been exposed to asbestos and may be at risk of other asbestos-related lung diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, or lung cancer. The healthcare costs associated with exposure to asbestos put a heavy burden on patients' budgets.
Asbestos fibers are easily inhaled and carried into the lower regions of the lung where they can cause changes in the lining of the chest cavity. Many industrial workers and veterans of the U.S. Military were unknowingly exposed to asbestos while performing their everyday duties on the job.
Pleural plaques are patches of fibrous thickening on the pleural membrane which can progress slowly and can calcify. Pleural plaques do not show obvious symptoms, hence the crucial importance of regular screenings if you have a history of asbestos exposure.
For people diagnosed with pleural plaques, their occupational history must reveal consistent exposure to asbestos for more than five years or a shorter period of extremely intense exposure. Plaques are usually discovered incidentally on chest imaging scans.
It is very important to keep vigilant and return for check-ups and X-rays every 2 - 3 years. If you ever notice any change or deterioration to your respiratory health, such as developing a persistent cough that lasts for one month or more, chest pains, or shortness of breath on minimal exertion, you should speak to your doctor as soon as possible.
You are told that the condition you have is benign and asymptomatic, but you know that the scarring of the lungs due to asbestos fibers means you are at risk of developing diseases that could at best change how you live your day-to-day life, and at worst lead to pain, suffering, and even death.
The presence of pleural plaques does not result in respiratory symptoms or clinically significant impacts on lung function, however, the condition should be considered a wake-up call. They could be a sign that asbestos may have been in your workplace, causing exposure, and increasing your risk of developing chronic lung diseases.
Once lodged in the lung tissue, these fibers may cause damage over time. Pleural plaques may be an indicator of a higher risk for conditions with high medical costs such as: