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Pleurisy

Pleurisy is inflammation of the lining of the lungs and chest (the pleura) that leads to chest pain (usually sharp) when you take a breath or cough.

Alternative Names

Pleuritis; Pleuritic chest pain

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Pleurisy may develop when you have lung inflammation due to infections such as pneumonia or tuberculosis . This inflammation also causes the sharp chest pain of pleurisy.

It may also occur with:

Symptoms

The main symptom of pleurisy is pain in the chest. This pain often occurs when you take a deep breath in or out, or cough. Some people feel the pain in the shoulder.

Deep breathing, coughing, and chest movement makes the pain worse.

Pleurisy can cause fluid to collect inside the chest cavity. This can make breathing difficult and may cause the following symptoms:

Signs and tests

When you have pleurisy, the normally smooth surfaces lining the lung (the pleura) become rough. They rub together with each breath, and may produce a rough, grating sound called a "friction rub." Your health care provider can hear this sound with the stethoscope, or by placing an ear against your chest.

The health care provider may perform the following tests:

Treatment

Treatment depends on what is causing the pleurisy. Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. Surgery may be needed to drain infected fluid from the lungs.

Viral infections normally run their course without medications. Patients often can control the pain of pleurisy with acetaminophen or anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.

Expectations (prognosis)

Recovery depends on what is causing the pleurisy.

Complications

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Collapsed lung due to thoracentesis
  • Complications from the original illness

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of pleurisy. If you have breathing difficulty or your skin turns blue, seek immediate medical care.

Prevention

Early treatment of bacterial respiratory infections can prevent pleurisy.

References

Celli BR. Diseases of the diaphragm, chest wall, pleura, and mediastinum. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 100.

Lee-Chiong T, Gebhart GF, Matthay RA. Chest pain. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus VC, Martin TR, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel’s Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 30.

Updated: 7/23/2011

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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