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Pleurisy

Definition

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

Alternative Names

Pleuritis; Pleuritic chest pain

Causes

Pleurisy may develop when you have lung inflammation due to infection, such as a viral infection, pneumonia or tuberculosis.

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. This can make it harder to breathe. It can cause the following symptoms:

Exams and Tests

When you have pleurisy, the normally smooth surfaces lining the lung (the pleura) become rough. They rub together with each breath. This results in a rough, grating sound called a friction rub. Your health care provider can hear this sound with the stethoscope.

The health care provider may order the following tests:

Treatment

Treatment depends on the cause of 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 medicines.

Taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help reduce pain.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Recovery depends on the cause of the pleurisy.

Possible Complications

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

When to Contact a Medical Professional

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

Prevention

Early treatment of bacterial respiratory infections can prevent pleurisy.

References

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: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 30.

McCool FD. Diseases of the diaphragm, chest wall, pleura, and mediastinum. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 99.


Review Date: 9/1/2013
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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