What's So Crucial About the Pleura & Mesothelioma?

Why we need to worry about the pleura and mesothelioma when we have to discuss asbestos? Well, asbestos has a great role to play in both the medical ailments that we are going to discuss today. Before letting you know more about these diseases, the first and the foremost thing for you is to know about them.


First, we have to give you a clarity about pleura or pleural membrane which is nothing but a thin membrane that lines the outer surface of the lungs. In other way, it protects the lungs from various infections and more. The pleural membrane also lines the chest cavity as well.

When we have to discuss about pleura, we need to know its basic structure. And this is what we are going to start with. Take a look below to find more on this burning topic.

Also Read: When is Asbestos Dangerous? What's Asbestos Exposure Law?


What's Pleura?

As we mentioned above, pleura or pleural membrane is the outer covering or lining of the lungs and the peritoneal cavity. Now, there are further two layers of pleura in which it has been divided:


·       The visceral pleura (covers the entire lung surface)

·       The parietal pleura (covers the inside of chest cavity)


While studying pleura, we also do study about its presence in some other organs. For example, there are some additional pleura linings that basically covers or give protection to outside of the heart (also known as 'pericardium'), the diaphragm along with the organs located in the middle of the chest ('mediastinum').

But at the time of practice, pleura is not mentioned as two distinct layers. Instead, it is defined to be a single collective membrane.

One interesting aspect of pleura is that it is a very thin and transparent layer and looks like a paper like membrane.

Talking about its color, it generally varies from light gray to pink.

While discussing pleura on the basis of its normal texture, it gives you a feeling or sensation which is very similar when a person runs his finger over a clean dish which is covered with any detergent.

In short, pleura give a soapy like feeling which is quite delicate and smooth. The other fact about pleura is that the entire pleural lining is fragile having no strength of its own.

And therefore, the entire lining can be easily traumatized.


What's the Function of the Pleura?

Pleura is made up of two pleural linings, and between them there is a small space, often termed as pleural cavity. This cavity has a small fluid meant to lubricate the entire surface of lungs.

The free sliding movement of lungs happens quite effortlessly with the help of this fluid. It's because it also acts as a lubricant and thus helps them to contract and expand with minimal effort.

Another interesting feature of pleural fluid is that it generates surface tension that further helps to pull both visceral and parietal pleura together.

The above act mainly helps lungs to expand effortlessly along with the movement of chest. In other words, this ensures that when your chest or peritoneal cavity expands, the lungs expand as well allowing them to be filed up with air.

Now, if you analyze this on a microscopic level, you will be able to find that cells that are lying inside the pleural lining have all the capacity to control the amount of fluid within your cavity.

For example, if the fluid starts to accumulate, it may cause a problem. When the pleural lining have the surplus amount of fluid, it will allow less space for lungs to expand.

And this will result in the shortness of breath which is often regarded as the first sign of mesothelioma. It's a lethal cancer which is caused quite exclusively by the asbestos exposure.


Does the Pleura Surface Have Nerves & Blood Vessels?

The pleural surface covering the entire chest wall (parietal pleura) is entirely made up of blood vessels and nerves having the ability to sense pain, temperature and pressure. 

One of the reasons why you get a feeling of the presence of the rich supply of nerves comes out at times when you break your ribs by accident, get hit in the chest area or when the masses start appearing in the pleura (the same happens in mesothelioma).

This is when you start getting intense pain or a sensation of continuous ache.

At the same time, visceral pleura have no nerves. And this is the reason why most lung cancers don't cause intense pain.

Also, both the visceral and parietal pleura are full of blood supply. The blood flow actually comes from all the blood vessels that runs inside the chest wall. It also comes to and from the lungs.

Also Read: Can You Get Mesothelioma Without Asbestos Exposure


What Types of Disorders Affect the Pleura?

There are a number of known disorders that have the capability to affect pleura:


·       A mass or a tumor, which can either be benign or malignant

·       Pneumothorax, or accumulation of excess air

·       Effusion, or accumulation of fluid


It has been found that asbestos has the direct role to play in mesothelioma. It happens when a person gets exposed to asbestos fibers that enter into the body through inhalation and get accumulated in the lungs.

The situation becomes rigid when some of these asbestos fibers tend to cross the entire lung surface and enter the pleural cavity.

Although, the body tries to fight such kind of fibers, it is unable to fight for lung due to the very nature of them.

As these asbestos fibers look solid in their texture and formation, they can't be broken down by the body. And so, the body tries to respond by sending more defense cells to the pleura.

Now, what happens is that with the passage of time, asbestos fibers that are already present in the pleural cavity can easily overpower the defense cells and start stimulating an inflammatory reaction.

It causes both pleural membranes to stuck together giving the sensation of pain due to the presence of inflammation. This further makes lung unable to expand as both the linings is already stuck together.

And this is when the lung gets trapped. After these asbestos fibers overpower the defence system of the body, rapid changes start happening inside the cells.

These newly deformed cells slowly and steadily take the shape of mesothelioma which is a form of lethal cancer.


Can the Pleural Surfaces Heal?

In general, pleural surface has a huge capacity to heal, especially when it has been attacked by any sort of infection. But it doesn't work when a person is diagnosed with a tumor or cancer.

In such cases, it has to be removed first. In mesothelioma cases, a doctor has to remove the entire pleural lining. After this lining is removed, the patient can lead to the normal life but again has some complication.

In most cases, the removal of pleural is full of major surgical undertaking. But it can be a good option for those who are healthy enough to bear this.



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