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What causes pleurisy?

There are many causes of pleurisy. Pleurisy may develop in the presence of lung inflammation (pneumonia, tuberculosis), rheumatic diseases, chest trauma, certain cancers, and asbestos-related disease. The main symptom is pain over the chest wall at the site of the inflammation. In some circumstances, the pain may be felt in the shoulder. Certain autoimmune

diseases (such as systemic lupus erythematosus) can irritate the pleura. Pleurisy may also develop when cancer spreads from the lung or another part of the body to the pleura, irritating it. Inhalation of asbestos can also cause pleurisy, as can (rarely) the use of certain drugs, such as nitrofurantoin or procainamide. Fluid may accumulate in the pleural space (a condition called pleural effusion), or fluid may not accumulate (a condition called dry pleurisy). After the inflammation subsides, the pleura may return to normal, or adhesions may form that make the pleural layers stick together.

The pain is increased by deep breathing, coughing, and chest movement. The normally smooth pleural surfaces -- now roughened by inflammation -- rub together with each breath, and may produce a rough, grating sound called a "friction rub". This can be heard with the stethoscope or an ear held against the patient's chest. Fluid often accumulates at the site of pleural inflammation. A localized collection of fluid separates the lung pleura from the chest wall pleura, causing the chest pain to disappear even though the illness may be worsening. Large accumulations of fluid compromise breathing and may cause coughing, shortness of breath with rapid breathing (tachypnea), cyanosis, and retractions.


More information on pleurisy

What is pleurisy? - Pleurisy is an inflammation of the pleura, the lining of the lungs, with subsequent pain. Pleurisy is frequently associated with a pleural effusion.
What causes pleurisy? - There are many causes of pleurisy. Pleurisy may develop in the presence of lung inflammation, rheumatic diseases, chest trauma.
What're the symptoms of pleurisy? - The most common symptom of pleurisy is chest pain (pleuritic pain), which worsens with breathing in or coughing.
How is pleurisy diagnosed? - Pleurisy is diagnosed by history and physical exam. Pleurisy is often easy for doctors to diagnose because pleuritic pain is so distinctive.
What's the treatment for pleurisy? - Treatment of pleurisy is directed at the underlying illness. Bacterial infections are treated with appropriate antibiotics.
How to prevent pleurisy? - Pleurisy can be prevented, depending on its cause. In some cases, pleurisy can be prevented by preventing the medical condition that causes it.
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005