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What is pleurisy?

Pleurisy is an inflammation of the pleura, the lining of the lungs, with subsequent pain. Inflammation occurs when an infection or damaging agent irritates the pleural surface. As a consequence, sharp chest pains are the primary symptom of pleurisy. Pleurisy cases are classified either as having pleural effusion or as being "dry." Pleural effusion is more common and refers to an accumulation of fluid within the pleural space; dry pleurisy is inflammation without fluid build-up. Less pain

occurs with pleural effusion because the fluid forces the membrane surfaces apart. However, pleural effusion causes additional complications because it places pressure on the lungs. This leads to respiratory distress and possible lung collapse.

The pleura is a double-layered structure made up of an inner membrane, which surrounds the lungs, and an outer membrane, which lines the chest cavity. The pleural membranes are very thin, close together, and have a fluid coating in the narrow space between them. There are two layers of pleura; one covering the lung and the other covering the inner wall of the chest. These two layers are lubricated by pleural fluid. Pleurisy is frequently associated with a pleural effusion (the accumulation of extra fluid in the space between the two layers of pleura). Pleurisy causes a stabbing pain in the chest aggravated by breathing, chest tenderness, cough, and shortness of breath. Pleurisy can be caused by many conditions including infections, collagen vascular diseases (such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis), cancers (such as metastatic lung cancer or breast cancer), tumors of the pleura, heart failure, lung embolism (blood clot in a vessel to the lungs), obstruction of lymph channels, trauma (rib fractures or injury from instruments in the chest from an operation or car accident), certain drugs (such as Hydralazine, Procan, and Dilantin), abdominal processes (such as pancreatitis, cirrhosis of the liver) and lung infarction (lung tissue death due to lack of oxygen from poor blood supply).

Pleurisy can go away on its own or worsen so that fluid has to be drained from around the lungs. Some people develop scar tissue called adhesions after they have pleurisy. They then have chronic pain or shortness of breath. Pleurisy occurs as a complication of a wide variety of underlying conditions. Relieving pleurisy involves treating the underlying condition, if it's known, and taking pain relievers. Pleurisy is often associated with a sharp chest pain that is made worse by a deep breath or cough. This is known as pleuritic pain.

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