Pleurisy: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments And Complications..


What Is Pleurisy?

Pleurisy, or pleuritis, is a condition where the pleura is infected. The pleura is a dual layer of the tissue that surrounds the lungs. The layer in intimate contact with the chest wall is called the parietal pleura, while the layer in connection with the lungs is referred to as the visceral pleura. Among the two layers is a thin film of fluid in a space called the pleural space. The fluid assures that the two layers glide smoothly over each other when the lungs inflate and contract during respiration. Excessive accumulation of this liquid in the pleural space is termed pleural effusion.

Pleurisy may be:

  • Wet pleurisy, when it is accompanied by pleural effusion.
  • Dry pleurisy, when pleural effusion is absent

The characteristics signs of pleurisy are a sharp, stabbing pain in the chest, which worsens with deep breathing and coughing. It is diagnosed based on the appearance of a scratchy sound while breathing referred to as the pleural rub, and diagnostic examinations which include imaging studies, blood tests, and examination of the pleural fluid. Pleurisy frequently subsides once the underlying problem is treated.

Causes Of Pleurisy

A variety of underlying conditions can cause pleurisy. Causes involve:

  • Viral infection like flu that includes the influenza
  • Bacterial infection like pneumonia
  • Fungal infection
  • Autoimmune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lung cancer near the pleural surface
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Tuberculosis
  • Rib fracture
  • Certain inherited disease like a sickle cell disease
  • Certain medications


  • Pain in the chest is the foremost symptom of pleurisy. This acute pain ordinarily occurs upon inhaling and exhaling a deep breath.
  • In some patients suffering from pleuritis, the pain may transmit to the shoulder too
  • Chest movement, deep breathing, and coughing increases the pain associated with the pleuritis
  • Fever with chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry cough

There is an accumulation of fluid inside the chest cavity which makes breathing difficult and causes the subsequent symptoms:

  • Cyanosis
  • Dyspnea
  • Coughing
  • Rapid breathing

Serious symptoms of te pleurisy are;

  • High fever
  • Extreme shortness of breath
  • Sudden and intense chest pain

How is Pleurisy Diagnosed?

Doctors use a medical history and several tests to evaluate for pleurisy in which the tests include:

  1. Biopsy– In some cases, a doctor will take a small sample of the lung tissue to detect whether cancer or tuberculosis is present.
  2. Blood test– Doctors use blood tests to watch for signs of infection or autoimmune disorders such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
  3. Electrocardiogram– This test uses small electrodes located on the chest to measure the heart’s electrical activity. It assists doctors to rule out problems or defects of the heart.
  4. Imaging tests– Imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds enable your doctor to see irregularities in the pleural space, including air, gas, or a blood clot.
  5. Physical exam– Monitoring your lungs with a stethoscope allows your doctor to hear a rubbing sound in your lungs that may be a symptom of pleurisy.
  6. Fluid extraction– A doctor injects a small needle into the pleural space and eliminates fluid to look for signs of infection or other causes of pleurisy.

What Are The Treatment For Pleurisy?

Pleurisy treatment based on the underlying condition causing it. In some cases, pleurisy goes off on its own without treatment. Your treatment possibilities might include;

Draining the pleural space

Doctors exclude air, blood, or fluid from the pleural space. Depending on how much of the items need to be drained, the doctor uses a needle and syringes or a chest tube to suction fluid out of the space.


Your doctor might order an antibiotic, an antifungal, or an antiparasitic to treat an infection. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can relieve the pain correlated with pleurisy. Corticosteroids can decrease inflammation, but they can produce many side effects. Your doctor may order bronchodilators to make it easier for you to breathe.

Radiation treatment or chemotherapy

In some cases, doctors accept cancer treatments to contract tumors that cause pleurisy.

What Are The Complications?

Some people with pleurisy experience difficulties like:

Hemothorax–¬† Blood raises up in the pleural space.

Pleural effusionРToo much fluid  in the pleural space. Pleural effusion can cause obstruction in breathing.

Severe illness– From not managing the infection or condition that caused pleurisy in the first place.