Pleural Disease Symptoms

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Many “pleural diseases” that are so identified are actually symptoms, not diseases themselves. In addition, while many outward symptoms are similar – or even identical – internal symptoms can differ from one condition to another. In these cases, accurate diagnosis requires a physician with access to appropriate medical equipment.

Pleural disease is a disorder that affects the pleural lining of the lungs. It actually consists of two membranes, one of which covers the surface of the lung itself, the other of which is attached to the inner chest wall. The narrow space between these two layers is called the pleural cavity. A small amount of lymphatic fluid fills this space, acting as a lubricant and allowing the lungs to expand without discomfort.

When too much fluid builds up in this space, or the linings become either inflamed or scarred or cancerous, it places pressure on the lungs in such a way that they are unable to expand properly.

Obvious Symptoms

The most obvious symptoms of pleural disease are shortness of breath (called dyspnea) and chest pain. The former is of course due to the aforementioned pressure on the lungs, which in turn causes reduced lung capacity and ability to take in air. The chest pain is caused by (A) the build-up of fluids and/or (B) the contact between the lungs and the inner chest wall once the pleural linings have been affected by plaque build-up and scarring.

In the case of asbestos disAsbestos Fibers Magnifiedease, these symptoms generally develop slowly over a period of several years, or even decades. The length of time generally depends on the length of time that asbestos exposure occurred, and density of the asbestos during that time. For example, virtually everyone on the planet has been exposed to asbestos fibers, as these are a by-product of industrial society, and also occur naturally in the air.

Pleural symptoms when due to bacterial or viral infections or even trauma such as chest injury are usually treatable with medication. Pleural diseases caused by asbestos, such as mesothelioma (The most common form of which is pleural mesothelioma) are incurable and invariably fatal; however, the symptoms of pleural asbestos diseases can be addressed through the use of medication and surgical procedures in order to relieve associated pain and discomfort.

Internal Symptoms

Symptoms experienced by the patient are due to the pleural lining being thickened and fibrous. Pleural plaques are such fibrous areas on the lung, diaphragm and pleural lining that are a manifestation of asbestos exposure, although they may also be caused by certain genetic diseases (i.e., fibrosis).

As the build-up of scar tissues associated with such plaques continues, it eventually blocks the lungs, preventing them from inflating properly.

Pleural EffusionPleural effusion is another condition associated with pleural disease. This is the build-up of fluid within the pleural cavity.

A pleural effusion can be either transudate or exudate. “Transudate” pleural effusion is due to something other than the pleura, such as congestive heart failure. “Exudate” pleural effusion is caused by an affliction of the pleural lining itself.

As stated above, there is always a small amount – no more than 15 ml. – of lymphatic fluid present in the pleural cavity in healthy individuals. Normally, this fluid is drained and replenished by the lymphatic system. However, if fluid production is excessive, and/or something affects the lymphatic system’s ability to drain said fluids, a build-up will result, placing the same type of pressure on the lungs and restricting their ability to expand.

Pus, the byproduct of bacterial infection, can also build up in the pleural cavity. Known as empyema, it is actually the by-product of the immune response known as inflammation – which itself is the body’s attempt to destroy the invaders. (The pus itself consists of a protein fluid and spent white blood cells).

Both cases can be a result of asbestos related disease. Since asbestos fibers are inorganic, they cannot result in an infection per se; however, the resultant injury to lung tissue can leave it more susceptible to such infections.

In either case, it is necessary to drain the fluid so the patient does not suffocate. This involves the insertion of a special needle, called a cannula, into the pleural cavity and allowing the fluid to drain into a bag or bottle through a tube. This may take anywhere from a few minutes up to two days, depending on how much fluid has accumulated.

In the case of cancer patients, the draining process – called thoracentesis – will likely need to be done repeatedly, since the pleural effusion will probably be recurrent.

Other Symptoms

Additional symptoms of pleural disease are non-specific. While associated with malignant mesothelioma, coughing, night sweats, unexplained or unintentional weight loss and persistent cough are not unique to this condition.

Because so many symptoms are non-specific – particularly in the early stages – mesothelioma (Often referred to as asbestos cancer) can be difficult to detect. Another reason behind this difficulty is the nature of the carcinoma. Whereas most cancers grow as a lump, or fibrous mass, mesothelioma spreads in a sheet-like manner.Mesothelioma Diagnosis Process

If one has worked in an industry in which asbestos was used, it is vital to get frequent check-ups. If any symptoms associated with pleural disease should become manifest, it is especially important to get a referral to a qualified oncologist, as these specialists are trained in issues related to cancer. Final determination as to whether or not the disease is determined to be a mesothelioma diagnosis will ultimately be determined through a biopsy, or analysis of an actual sample of lung tissue by a pathologist.

Like most cancers, mesothelioma treatment is most effective in the early stages of the disease.