Definition of Pleurisy and Causes

Pleurisy is inflammation of the pleura, also called pleuritis – can develop as a consequence of direct irritation or infection in the pleural space, or as a consequence of infection or inflammation involving the lungs such as tuberculosis or pneumonia.

Autoimmune disorders can cause inflammation, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (sle) and sarcoidosis.


The characteristic symptom of pleurisy is sudden, sharp, and often severe pain during inhalation and exhalation that subsides with holding the breath. The pain may occur on only one side of the chest or both sides, and may feel as though it comes from the back or under the shoulder blades, depending on the site of the inflammation. Some people also have a persistent, dry cough.

Upon auscultation with a stethoscope the doctor can hear an abnormal abrasive sound called a pleural rub, which is the sound of the irritated layers of the pleura rubbing against each other. Chest X-RAY confirms whether there is pleural effusion in which the pleural cavity contains excessive fluid. The doctor may also choose to do an ultrasound or computed tomography (ct) scan of the thorax.


Treatment targets any underlying cause, when identified. For simple pleurisy, treatment is usually nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (nsaids) to relieve inflammation and pain. The doctor may also prescribe a cough medicine to control coughing. Most people cover fully and uneventfully from an episode of pleurisy.

People who have chronic pulmonary conditions or who smoke may have recurrent pleurisy, which can result in longterm thickening or scarring of the pleura.


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