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Pleuritis or pleurisy involves inflammation of the pleura which lines the lungs and chest. The condition causes chest pain while breathing or coughing. Remember that the management of pleuritis is usually based on the exact cause.

What are the causes and risk factors?

It is important to note that infections such as tuberculosis or pneumonia are known to trigger inflammation of the lungs that results to pleuritis. The inflammation is also responsible for trigging the piercing chest pain.

Other conditions that increases the risk for developing pleuritis includes the following:

  • Certain forms of cancer
  • Asbestos-related conditions
  • Chest trauma
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
    Chest pain is the chief symptom of pleuritis that can be acute during inhaling and exhaling or even coughing.
  • Pulmonary embolus

Indications of pleuritis

  • Chest pain is the chief symptom of pleuritis that can be acute during inhaling and exhaling or even coughing
  • Pain or discomfort that radiates to the shoulder area
  • Fever with chills
  • Dry cough
  • Appetite loss

In case there is fluid accumulation within the chest cavity that causes difficulty breathing, it can cause the following:

  • Coughing
  • Bluish skin color or cyanosis
  • Rapid breathing
  • Dyspnea or shortness of breath

In severe cases of pleuritis, it can cause symptoms such as high fever, significant shortness of breath and abrupt, intense chest pain.

How is it diagnosed?

Medical history and physical examination is done by the doctor if an individual is suspected with pleuritis. There is a “friction rub” that can be heard using a stethoscope if placed against the chest of the individual. The reason for this is the roughened pleura that produces the grating sound.

Other tests that are required include the following:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • CBC
  • Pleural biopsy
  • Thoracentesis
  • Thoracoscopy


It is important to note that the treatment for pleuritis is based on the exact cause.

  • Antibiotics are given if a bacterial infection is the cause.
  • If due to a viral infection, the condition normally run its course without any medications.
  • Pain medications or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen can be given to control the pain.
  • Surgery might be an option to drain the infected fluid from the lungs.
  • The individual should rest and lying down on the affected side can help alleviate the discomfort.

The length of recovery from pleuritis usually depends on the cause. In some cases, complications might develop which includes difficulty breathing.

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