What is pleurisy?

Pleurisy, sometimes known as pleuritis, refers to a condition which involves the inflammation or infection of the thin tissues which line the chest wall and lungs - these are called the pleura. When someone has pleurisy, these tissues can become swollen and irritated, breathing can result in pain due to the friction which is generated.

According to the NHS, viral infection is the cause of most pleural disease cases.

Symptoms of pleurisy

The main symptom of pleurisy is a stabbing pain which is felt when breathing. When you hold your breath, this pain can go away. This pain can worsen when you cough, sneeze or move.

Depending on the condition which is causing the pleurisy, additional symptoms can be experienced, including; fever, loss of appetite, chest pain, back and shoulder pain, joint pain, instinctive shallow breathing to reduce pain, shortness of breath, muscle aches and headaches.

Causes of pleurisy

The most common cause of pleurisy is a viral infection. These viruses cause infections in the lungs which can result in the condition.

Other potential causes include; bronchitis, bacterial pneumonia, chest wounds, tuberculosis, lung tumours, chest tumours, blunt trauma to the chest wall, rib fractures, complications after heart surgery, pulmonary emboli, lymphoma, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, mesothelioma, fungal infections, and lung cancer.


Treatment options for pleurisy

After pleurisy is diagnosed - typically via methods including a chest x-ray, thoracentesis, thoracoscopy, blood test, biopsy, ultrasound or CT scan - there are a number of treatment options available.

Rest can help, and lying on the side where pain is felt can actually relieve pain.

Other pleural disease treatment options include; over the counter medicine such as ibuprofen and aspirin, antibiotics for bacterial infection, prescription cough medication, prescription pain medication, medication to break up blood clots, medication to break up mucus and pus, and bronchodilators, which are metered-dose inhaler devices.