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Pleurisy (Inflammation Of The Lung Lining): Symptoms, Causes, Treatments and Prevention

Pleurisy, also named as pleuritis, is an inflammatory condition of the lungs that causes severe chest pain and shortness of breath. Pleura is a pair of thin membranes that envelops the lungs. One covers the lungs and other the inner wall of the chest. The gap between pleural layers is filled with fluids (pleural fluid) that helps with effortless moving of the pleurae during respiratory movements.

In pleurisy, pleurae get inflamed causing both the layers to rub against each other while breathing in and out. Sometimes pleurisy goes on its own while sometimes it may get worse and cause death. Also, people above 65 are more likely to get affected by the condition. Take a look at the details. [1]

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Causes Of Pleurisy

The exact cause of pleurisy is still unknown, but in many cases infections are responsible. The infection can either be bacterial or viral. Other conditions that cause pleurisy are:

  • Chest or lung tumours [2]
  • Fracture in the ribs
  • Bronchitis
  • Inflammatory bowel syndrome
  • Wounds in the chest
  • Pulmonary emboli, blockage of the arteries in the lungs.
  • Compromised immune system (Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Drug reactions (medications for high BP or heart)
  • Parasitic or fungal infections
  • Lymphatic cancer [3]
  • Asbestosis (lung condition caused due to asbestos inhalation)
  • Inherited diseases (sickle cell anaemia)

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Symptoms Of Pleurisy

Common symptoms of pleurisy include:

  • Strong chest pain caused during breathing, sneezing or coughing.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Stabbing-like pain in the chest [4]
  • The spread of pain to shoulders and back
  • Fever or chills
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle or joint pain

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Risk Factors Of Pleurisy

  • Preexisting conditions such as lung cancer or infections.
  • Being age above 65.
  • Belonging to Mediterranean descent (due to the familial Mediterranean fever that runs in family) [5]
  • People with autoimmune disorders

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Diagnosis Of Pleurisy

Common diagnostic methods for pleurisy involve: [6]

  • Medical history: First, the medical expert will ask for the medical history of the patient. It includes questions about preexisting conditions, autoimmune diseases, hereditary disease and many more.
  • X-ray: Here, X-ray of the chest is carried out to find out fluid buildup.
  • CT scan and ultrasound: To find inflammatory tissues of the lungs.
  • Blood test: To find out the cause of the infection (bacterial, viral, fungal or parasitic).
  • Biopsy: The process to determine the exact cause of pleurisy.

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Treatment Of Pleurisy

Treatment methods for pleurisy include:

  • Antibiotics/Antiviral/Antifungal/Antiparasitic: To treat the infection according to its type. [7]
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs: To relieve pain.
  • Corticosteroids: Drugs to lower inflammation.
  • Bronchodilators: Drugs to make breathing easier.
  • Blood thinners: To clear up the blockage in the arteries of the lungs.
  • Pleural effusion: Insertion of the tube to drain out excess fluid accumulated between pleural layers.
  • Other treatment methods: It includes treating the underlying cause such as chemotherapy if the cause is lung cancer.

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How To Prevent Pleurisy

The best way to prevent pleurisy is early diagnosis of the condition. It helps prevent the excess buildup of fluid or from severe inflammation. Whenever you observe the aforementioned symptoms, consult a medical expert immediately. Other preventive measures include:

  • Quit smoking
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Get plenty of rest

Common FAQs

1. How does a person get pleurisy?

A person usually gets pleurisy due to infections- viral infection (flu) or bacterial infection (pneumonia). Other reasons include bronchitis, trauma, heart surgery, arteries blockage in the lungs, usage of certain medications, lung cancer and many more.

2. How serious is pleurisy?

The severity of pleurisy ranges from mild to severe. When mild, it causes symptoms like cough and mild fever that may go on its own or by simple medications. In severe cases, a person may get stabbing chest pain and shortness of breath. Severe cases of pleurisy may even cause death.

Story first published: Monday, July 13, 2020, 16:30 [IST]
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