What is pleurisy?


Know the basics

What is pleurisy?

Pleurisy, also called pleuritis, is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the pleura. Pleurisy causes sharp chest pain (pleuritic pain) that worsens during breathing.

The pleura include two thin layers of tissue that protect and separate the lungs and the chest wall. Between the two layers are the pleural fluids that works to lubricate the layers. When the pleura become inflamed, they do not slide against each other smoothly, thus leading to pain especially when you cough or sneeze.

How common is pleurisy?

Pleurisy is common. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of pleurisy?

The common symptoms of pleurisy are:

  • Chest pain that worsens when you breathe, cough or sneeze;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • A cough – only in some cases;
  • A fever – only in some cases;
  • Chest pain and tenderness. The pain often affect the front or back of the cavity, and sometimes you might have back or shoulder pain.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • If you have a cough, shaking chills and high fever that produces yellow or green sputum, there is likelihood that you have pneumonia.
  • If your arm or leg is swollen when you have pleurisy, you probably have pulmonary embolus and deep venous thrombosis.

Know the causes

What causes pleurisy?

Pleurisy can be caused by an infection to the pleura or from a medication or medical condition. Causes of pleurisy include:

  • A viral infection, such as the flu (influenza);
  • A bacterial infection, such as pneumonia;
  • A fungal infection;
  • Rheumatoid disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis;
  • Certain medications;
  • Lung cancer near the pleural surface.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for pleurisy?

Patients who have an underlying respiratory condition are at increased risk for developing pleurisy. Risk of having another disease along with pleurisy increases with age and presence of other life-threatening conditions such as diabetes, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart disease and collagen vascular diseases.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is pleurisy diagnosed?

To determine if you have pleurisy your doctor might recommend:

  • Blood tests. A blood test might tell your doctor if you have an infection.
  • Chest X-ray. A chest X-ray can show if your lungs are fully inflating or if there is air or fluid between the lungs and ribs.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. In a CT scan, a computer translates information from X-rays into images of thin sections (slices) of your chest, producing more-detailed images.
  • Ultrasound. This imaging method uses high-frequency sound waves to produce precise images of structures within your body. Your doctor might use ultrasound to determine whether you have a pleural effusion.

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). Your doctor might recommend this heart-monitoring test to rule out certain heart problems as a cause for your chest pain.

How is pleurisy treated?

Treatments used in pleurisy focus primarily on the underlying cause. For example, if bacterial pneumonia is the cause, an antibiotic will control the infection. If the cause is viral infection, pleurisy will resolve on its own. The chest pain associated with pleurisy can be treated using a type of painkiller known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Most often, ibuprofen is used.

If NSAIDs are ineffective or unsuitable, you may be prescribed another painkiller, such as paracetamol or codeine.

It may seem strange, but lying down on the side of your chest that hurts may also help to reduce the pain.

The outcome of pleurisy treatment depends on the seriousness of the underlying disease. If the condition that caused pleurisy is diagnosed and treated early, a full recovery is typical.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage pleurisy?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with pleurisy:

  • Take medication as ordered by your doctor. Take medication such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) as needed to relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Get plenty of rest. Find the position that causes you the least discomfort and try to stay in it. Even when you start to feel better, be careful not to overdo it.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

msBahasa Malaysia

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017