Pleural Diseases

A pleural disease, also known as a pleural disorder, refers to a category of several medical conditions that impact the pleura, the tissue covering the outside of the lungs. The pleura, which is as thin as the skin of a plastic balloon, also lines the inside of the chest cavity. Prolonged exposure to asbestos can cause pleural diseases.

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Rae Theodore

Written by: Rae Theodore

Last updated:

Amy Garrett

Fact-Checked and Legally Reviewed by: Amy E. Garrett

What Causes Pleural Disease?

Doctors reviewing a lung x-ray

Inside a healthy body, a small amount of fluid surrounds the lungs to assist with inhaling and exhaling. However, an infection (such as pneumonia), a lung-related injury, or inflammation of the lungs can cause air or blood to replace this fluid. That change in the body can cause a pleural disease.

What Is Asbestos-Related Pleural Disease?

Asbestos is a nonflammable, naturally occurring mineral commonly used in jobs related to construction, electricity, gas, oil, and plumbing. Manufacturers have also used it to make certain cosmetic products, such as face makeup and baby powder. When asbestos is dispersed into the air, rooms and other spaces become contaminated with asbestos particles. A person who breathes in asbestos particles can suffer damage to the lungs and develop pleural diseases.

If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, contact our team at for a free legal consultation. We can connect you with an asbestos lawyer who may be able to help you pursue compensation.

Asbestos-Related Pleural Plaques

Pleural plaques are areas of thickened tissue in the lining of the lungs, known as pleura. Doctors identify them using a CT scan. Pleural plaques are the most common sign that a patient has an asbestos-related disease. They are asymptomatic, benign, and do not require medical treatment most of the time. However, they signal other illnesses, which frequently require follow-up care.

Mesothelioma vs. Pleural Disease

Mesothelioma is a rare and fatal form of cancer caused by asbestos. Pleural mesothelioma, which impacts the lining of the lungs, is the most common type. A pleural disease refers to a group of serious illnesses that affect the lungs such as asbestosis. Not all pleural diseases are considered to be cancer. Mesothelioma is one example of an asbestos-related pleural disease.

Pleural Disease Symptoms

Pleural disease symptoms vary based on the specific type of disease and the severity of each case.

The most common symptoms of pleural diseases include:

  • Chest pain
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath

Pleural Disease Diagnosis

If you suspect you have a pleural disease based on your symptoms, your doctor can confirm the diagnosis through a series of procedures. You may be asked to make an appointment for a chest X-ray or CT scan so your doctor can examine the condition of your lungs more closely and from different angles. Medical professionals sometimes use dye during CT scans to highlight certain internal organs. They also use blood tests to verify a pleural disease diagnosis.

Types of Pleural Disorders

There are several types of pleural disorders. Each one has different causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

Here are some disorders that affect the lining of the lungs:

  • Empyema: Buildup of pus between the lungs and the chest wall that is often associated with pneumonia
  • Hemothorax: Accumulation of blood between the lungs and the chest wall
  • Pleural effusion: Excess fluid between the lungs and the chest wall, which pushes against the lungs and makes breathing difficult
  • Pleural tumors: Benign tumors arising from the pleura or malignant tumors arising from the pleura or spreading to the pleura
  • Pleurisy: Inflammation of the pleura
  • Pneumothorax: Buildup of air within the pleural cavity between the inside of the rib cage and the outside of the lung

Nonmalignant vs. Malignant Asbestos-Related Pleural Diseases

Nonmalignant diseases are medical health conditions that are not cancerous. In the realm of pleural diseases, some are nonmalignant and some are malignant.

Health care practitioners can diagnose each category of asbestos-related pleural disease through a pleural biopsy or thoracoscopy. A thoracoscopy is a medical procedure that allows your doctor to examine the inside of your chest and pleural space using a viewing tube called a thoracoscope.

Nonmalignant asbestos-related illnesses include: 

  • Asbestosis
  • Asbestos-related pleural plaques
  • Benign pleural effusion

According to the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, there is a possibility that a nonmalignant asbestos-related disease can eventually become malignant, depending on the amount and frequency of the patient’s exposure to asbestos.

Pleural Disease Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of patients who have been diagnosed with pleural diseases varies on a case-by-case basis.

However, the National Center for Biotechnology Information offers some life expectancy data regarding patients experiencing pleural effusion, which is sometimes caused by lung cancer. The most common cause of pleural effusion is congestive heart failure. According to a published study, 67% of pleural effusion patients admitted to the hospital typically have about one month to live. Of this group, 33% of patients die within one year.

Pleural Disease Treatments

There are several treatment options for pleural diseases, depending on which type patients have been diagnosed with and the severity of their condition.

Some of the most common pleural disease treatments include:

Medication options
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Diuretics
  • Steroids
Surgical options
  • Chest tube placement
  • Pleural removal
  • Thoracentesis (pleural fluid drainage with a needle)

Without receiving the proper medical treatments, patients with pleural diseases are at risk for additional serious health conditions, such as:

  • Lung collapse
  • Sepsis
  • Shock

Pleural Disease Claims and Compensation

If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related pleural disease — such as pleural mesothelioma — you may be entitled to compensation. is connected to a national network of lawyers with extensive experience in litigation related to asbestos. The asbestos lawyers we partner with don’t charge clients any upfront or out-of-pocket fees, so there is no financial risk for you. They only get paid if you receive compensation.

Get a free case review now to learn about your legal options.

FAQs About Pleural Disease

How long does it usually take to notice symptoms of pleural diseases?

It might take many years for patients to notice that they have symptoms of a pleural disease. For example, an asbestos-related pleural disease may take between 10 and 50 years to present symptoms, cause discomfort, and become noticeable.

Are pleural diseases curable?

Although damaged lungs cannot be cured, there are several treatment options to help alleviate the discomfort of pleural diseases. Depending on the specific type of pleural disease, treatments include a variety of medications and surgical options.

Are pleural diseases fatal?

Your body’s reaction to a pleural disease depends on the severity of your condition. But without medical intervention, additional health issues that are associated with pleural diseases can be life-threatening. These related complications include collapsing of the lungs, sepsis, and shock.

Amy Garrett

Fact-Checked and Legally Reviewed by: Amy E. GarrettPartner

  • Lawyer
  • Editor

Amy Garrett is a partner at Simmons Hanly Conroy with more than 22 years of litigation experience. Amy has helped the firm secure billions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for clients. Over the past two decades, she has gained a reputation as a litigator who advocates for her asbestos and complex litigation clients both inside and outside the courtroom.

Rae Theodore

Written by: Rae Theodore

Rae Theodore is a writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in legal publishing. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Pennsylvania State University.

  1. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. “Diagnosis and Initial Management of Nonmalignant Diseases Related to Asbestos.” Retrieved from: Accessed on June 27, 2024.
  2. American Lung Association. “Mesothelioma.” Retrieved from: Accessed on June 27, 2024.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Study Syllabus for Classification of Radiographs of Pneumoconioses.” Retrieved from: Accessed on June 27, 2024.
  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information. “Mortality of Hospitalized Patients with Pleural Effusions.” Retrieved from: Accessed on June 27, 2024.
  5. National Center for Biotechnology Information. “Non-malignant asbestos pleural disease.” Retrieved from: Accessed on June 27, 2024.
  6. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “What Are Pleural Disorders?” Retrieved from: Accessed on June 27, 2024.
  7. National Jewish Health. “Treatment.” Retrieved from: Accessed on June 27, 2024.
  8. Radiopaedia. “Pleural plaque.” Retrieved from: Accessed on June 27, 2024.
  9. University of Michigan Health. “Pleural Diseases.” Retrieved from: Accessed on June 27, 2024.
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