Asbestos exposure can cause a wide array of non-cancerous conditions, most of which fall into the benign pleural disease category. These diseases affect the pleura, which is a liquid filled sac between the lungs and the body cavity that enables proper lung movement during breathing. Most people with these conditions exhibit few outward symptoms, and only X-Rays and CAT scans reveal their existence.
There are three main types of benign pleural diseases, each of which is unique.
Even though these diseases are not cancerous, they are nevertheless serious conditions which require prompt medical attention.
1. Pleural plaques
Pleural plaque is the hardening of the pleura, similar to what happens to arteries in arteriosclerosis. When asbestos fibers enter the lungs they cause the pleura to become thick and scaly. Plaques rarely prevent lung function, and scientists still lack a proper explanation for their occurrence.
2. The Pleural fibrosis.
Pleural fibrosis occurs when asbestos particles invade the pleural fluid and thicken it significantly. This is a much graver condition because the thickness of the pleural fluid inhibits lung movement, causing shortness of breath and labored breathing. While not life threatening, pleural fibrosis can increase susceptibility to other lung conditions, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
3. Pleural diffusion.
This refers to the build-up of pleural fluid in the pleural cavity caused by exposure to asbestos. This fluid must be drained to ensure proper health, but is rarely life threatening. The benign nature of this condition should not lull victims into a false sense of security, for it can often lead to other more serious disabilities.