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Pleurisy

Your health care provider has told you that you have pleurisy. Pleurisy is inflammation or swelling of the pleura. The pleura are two layers of thin, smooth tissue that surround the lungs and line the chest.

Front view of the chest showing right lung covered by normal pleura. Left lung is covered by inflamed pleura.

 

The pleura helps protect the lungs. Normally, the two layers glide smoothly past each other when you breathe in and out. With pleurisy, the layers become swollen and inflamed. This causes them to rub together with each breath, making it painful to breathe. Pleurisy can occur for many reasons. Some causes include lung infections (such as pneumonia), lung cancer, and injury to the chest.

What are the symptoms of pleurisy?

Pleurisy usually causes sharp chest pain. It's usually worse when you take a deep breath, cough, or sneeze.

 

What are the causes of pleurisy?

There are many different causes of pleurisy. A viral infection, like the flu or pneumonia, is a common cause. Some of the serious causes include:

Lung conditions

  • Pulmonary embolism or a blood clot in the lung

  • Pneumothorax or air between the two pleura

Heart problems

  • Heart attack

  • Pericarditis or inflammation of the covering of the heart

How is pleurisy diagnosed?

Your health care provider examines you and asks you about your symptoms and medical history. He or she will first check you for the serious causes of chest pain. Tests may include:

  • Lab tests

  • Imaging tests, such as chest X-ray, CT scan, or ultrasound

How is pleurisy treated?

Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Serious conditions are treated in the hospital. Medications to decrease inflammation and pain are prescribed for many people.

Call your health care provider or 911 for severe symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing (call 911)

  • Worsening chest pain (call 911)

  • Fever  

 

 

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