Pleurisy: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment


Most of the time, pleurisy occurs because of an infection. However, there are other causes to it as well. A certain type of chest pain that affects your pleura, is what is called pleurisy. We often do not notice our pleura at work when we are healthy but when you have a problem, you are likely to feel it at its most. In this article, we will be discussing pleurisy, its causes, symptoms and diagnosis.

what is pleurisy

In this article:

Causes of Pleurisy
Symptoms of Pleurisy
Diagnosis of Pleurisy
Treatment for Pleurisy
Home Remedies for Pleurisy

All You Need to Know about Pleurisy

Causes of Pleurisy

When the pleura becomes infected and irritated, pleurisy occurs. When the two layers of the pleural membrane rub against each other, it leads to pain when you inhale and exhale and it lessens or stops only when you hold your breath.


Pleurisy is often caused by bacterial infections like pneumonia. It can also be caused by the virus-like flu or by a fungus.

Listed below are a few other things that can lead to pleurisy

  • Lung cancer
  • A blood clot in the lung
  • An autoimmune disease like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Certain medications
  • Rib fracture
  • Certain inherited diseases, like sickle cell disease.
  • Types of cancer that affect the lungs or pleura.

Symptoms of Pleurisy

Pleurisy often leads to chest pain, which is one of the symptoms that makes it pretty easy for your doctor to examine and know that you are suffering from it. a few symptoms of pleurisy are:

  • Fever and chills
  • Cough
  • Excessive weight loss
  • A sharp, stabbing pain that makes you take small, shallow breaths as it gets worse when you try to breathe deeply.

Pain caused by pleurisy can also affect your shoulders or back.

There are a few cases when the fluid builds up in the small space between the two layers of tissue (pleural space), also called pleural effusion. The pleuritic pain disappears or lessens when there is a fair amount of fluid because the two layers are no longer in contact. Whereas, when there is a large amount of fluid in the pleural space, it can create pressure and compress your lungs to the point that it partially or completely collapses. This might cause you to cough and make breathing very difficult. Also, the extra fluid can become infected, which is called an empyema, often accompanied by fever.


Diagnosis of Pleurisy

The following might be recommended by your doctor to determine if you have pleurisy:

Chest X-ray

This will help to show if your lungs are fully inflating or if there is air between the lungs and ribs. A special type of X-ray might be recommended by your doctor in which you have to lay on your side (decubitus chest X-ray)

Blood Tests

This will help to determine if you have an infection. There are a number of other blood tests also which might detect an autoimmune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, which shows pleurisy as the initial sign.

Computerized Tomography (CT scan)

Int his, more detailed images of your chest are produced by translating information from X-rays into images of thin sections with the help of a computer. With the help of a chest CT scan, You can know if you have a blood clot in the lung.


High-frequency sound waves will be used to produce images of structure within your body. Ultrasound might be used to determine if you have pleural effusion.


Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)

To rule out certain heart problems as a cause for the chest pain, your doctor might recommend this test.

In some of the cases, the fluid and tissue from the pleural space are removed for testing. The procedures are:


Your doctor might suggest thoracentesis to remove fluid for laboratory analysis. The procedure includes injecting a local anesthetic between the ribs to the area where fluid was seen on the imaging studies. Then, a needle is inserted through your chest wall between your ribs to remove the fluid.

Thoracoscopy or Pleuroscopy

In case, the cause of your condition is suspected to be cancer or tuberculosis, a procedure might be performed that allows the doctor for direct visualization inside the chest to look for abnormalities or to even obtain a tissue sample (biopsy).

Treatment for Pleurisy

The main focus of the treatment for pleurisy is the underlying cause. For instance, an antibiotic can control the infection if bacterial pneumonia is suspected to be the cause. Similarly, if the cause if viral, pleurisy will resolve on its own.


Thus, a full recovery is typical if the condition that led to pleurisy is diagnosed and treated early. So, It all depends on the seriousness of the underlying cause.

Home Remedies for Pleurisy


Look out for a position that you are the most comfortable in and try staying in it. also, even when you begin to feel a little better, make sure you do not overdo on it.

Take Medication

Medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) may be taken to relieve pain and inflammation.


You must seek immediate medical care if you go through severe unexplained chest pain. Make sure you keep a record of your symptoms like where the pain starts and how far it spreads. also, never hesitate and always feel free to ask your doctor any questions regarding the disease.



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