Pleurisy is an inflammation of the pleura, the double-layered membrane that surrounds each lung and the rib cage. The pleura protects and lubricates the surface of the lungs as they inflate and deflate within the rib cage. When they become inflamed, the diseased surfaces rub painfully together.
Pleura of the Lungs
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There are several causes for either acute or chronic pleurisy.
Factors that increase your chances of having pleurisy include:
Symptoms of pleurisy include:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The pain associated with pleurisy can be enough to diagnose the condition. A stethoscope will be used to listen for abnormal chest sounds, such as a friction rub or pneumonia sounds. The next step is determining the illness that caused the pleurisy.
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Your heart's activity may be tested. This can be done with an EKG.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and anti-inflammatories are used to treat the pain. Anti-inflammatories may also relieve symptoms related to inflammation. Some patients can reduce their pain by lying on the painful side, holding a pillow tightly, or wrapping the chest with elastic bandages. Codeine-based cough syrup may be prescribed to treat a painful cough if it is safe to do so.
If pleurisy is the result of a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed. If it is the result of a viral infection, the virus will get better naturally. If the cause is due to an autoimmune disease such as lupus, then steroid treatment will relieve pain. Pulmonary embolism or pneumothorax may be treated by surgery.
If you are diagnosed with pleurisy, follow your doctor's instructions.
To help reduce your chances of getting pleurisy, take the following steps:
American Lung Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
The Canadian Lung Association
Kass SM, and Reamy BV: Pleurisy. Am Fam Physician . 2007;75:1357-64.
Pleurisy. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: http://www.cedars-... . Accessed May 29, 2013.
Pleurisy. The Merck Manual of Medical Information website. Available at: http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec04/ch052/ch052b.html . Updated February 2008. Accessed May 29, 2013.
Last reviewed February 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 2/18/2014