Inflammation or asbestos exposure can cause the pleura to thicken and become stiff.
People may not have symptoms,or, if a large area of the pleura is affected, they may have difficulty breathing.
Diagnosis is with chest x-rays and sometimes computed tomography.
Sometimes surgery is needed to remove the pleura.
(See also Overview of Pleural and Mediastinal Disorders.)
Usually, the pleura is very thin and flexible, but sometimes it becomes thick (develops fibrosis) as a result of
Asbestos exposure (called asbestos-related pleural disease)
Sometimes only a small area of the pleura is affected. Other times large areas of the pleura are affected. The fibrotic pleura can also develop calcification (accumulation of calcium within the tissue).
Inflammation of the pleura causes thick fibrous tissue to replace the thin pleural membrane. In most cases, the thickening resolves almost completely once the inflammation resolves. Some people are left with minor degrees of pleural thickening, which usually causes no symptoms or impairment of lung function. Occasionally, one of the lungs becomes encased with a thick fibrous layer that limits the ability to expand and take in oxygen and impairs lung function.
Occasionally, calcifications can develop in parts of the pleura that have been affected by fibrosis.