Asbestos-related conditions

Diffuse pleural thickening

Diffuse pleural thickening is where extensive, often smooth scarring, thickens the pleural membrane lining your lungs and chest wall.

Asbestos exposure is not the only cause of diffuse pleural thickening. Other causes include infection, inflammatory disease and non-malignant pleural effusion, which is when there is fluid around the lungs. In all of these cases, one or both lungs could be affected.


When your pleura becomes thicker and hard over a large area, your lungs cannot expand so far and you may feel breathless.


Your GP will refer you to a specialist for lung function tests and a CT scan. This is a special X-ray machine that takes a picture of a cross-section of your body. Occasionally it will be necessary to take a sample, or biopsy, from the thickened pleural membrane to exclude a diagnosis of mesothelioma.


In most cases, no treatment is required since the pleural thickening does not usually cause very severe symptoms. Avoiding smoking, keeping active and pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) are usually the most useful options. If your breathlessness is severe, surgery can be considered. This is rare as it is not usually very effective.

Next: Asbestosis>

If you have concerns or need advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

We'll take good care of your personal info and you can update the way we contact you at any time - check out our privacy policy at to find out more.

Download our asbestos-related conditions PDF (359KB)