Pleuritis: Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

Pleuritis is an inflammation of the lining called the pleura. This membrane surrounds the lungs. A change in this gives pain as the main symptom. In this article we will tell you the causes of pleurisy and how it is treated.
Pleuritis: Symptoms, causes and treatment

Pleuritis is the same as pleurisy. These terms refer to the same condition: Inflammation of the lining known as the pleura.

The pleura is a thin membrane that surrounds the lungs and separates them from the chest wall. In fact, the pleura has two layers; one of them is attached to the lungs and the other to the chest wall.

There is a small space between the two teams. This space is known as potential because it does not exist or is visible unless something occupies it. Air can occupy that space and give what we call pneumothorax. A liquid substance can also absorb it and cause pleural effusion.

It is common for pleurisy to be associated with pleural effusion. When the pleura is inflamed, it can produce inflammatory fluid that collects in the pleural cavity. This indicates that different pleural disorders may be responses to the same cause.

The causes of pleurisy

Pleuritis has various causes. These are some of the disorders that can cause inflammation of the pleura:

  • Autoimmune diseases. Some autoimmune diseases attack the pleura. For example, arthritis, which is a cause of pleurisy.
  • Lung cancer. This oncological disease can attack the pleura. Sometimes the pleural membranes swell due to proximity to the primary tumor. Other times because lung cancer metastases attach to the pleura.
  • Pneumonia. When you suffer from bacterial or viral pneumonia, the pleura becomes inflamed due to the infectious process.
  • Fungal infection. Some types of fungi that attack humans in the internal organs can attach themselves to the pleura. Mycotic pleurisy is difficult to treat as antifungal drugs take a long time to start working and because the drugs do not gain access to the pleura as quickly as other organs.
  • Chest injuries. Trauma to the chest and side of the chest wall, more precisely in the ribs, is associated with pleurisy. Inflammation occurs due to cohesion and proximity to neighboring structures.
A woman with chest pain
Chest pain is one of the most common symptoms of pleurisy.

Symptoms of pleurisy

The most characteristic symptom of pleurisy is chest pain. In general, it is an intense but periodic pain, which worsens when the patient coughs or takes a deep breath.

Dyspnoea manifests itself along with the pain. Dyspnoea is a perceived lack of air, either by inhalation or exhalation. As in a vicious cycle, breathing exertion can aggravate chest pain. Other symptoms will depend on the cause of the pleurisy.

  • If there is a pneumonia, the patient will also suffer from fever and cough.
  • If it is lung cancer, the patient will have weight loss, anemia or changes in skin color.
  • When it occurs due to an autoimmune disease, it often affects the joints, for example.

If the pleurisy is accompanied by pleural effusion, the characteristic pain will vary slightly. The accumulated fluid aggravates the pain of certain postures and postures. Dyspnoea is also more pronounced due to the pressure the effusion exerts on the lung.

An X-ray of the chest
Your doctor will look for all the diagnostic options to find the cause that caused the pleurisy.


The treatment strongly depends on the cause. Remember that it is not a disease in itself, but rather a situation that arises from another pathology.

A patient can deal with the pleural effusion with anti-inflammatory drugs, regardless of the original cause. Medical professionals often recommend ibuprofen for pain management. In more severe cases, the patient may resort to morphine and its derivatives.

When the patient’s pain worsens when they cough, the doctor may consider the use of antitussives. However, they are not always recommended because coughing is a defense mechanism the body uses to resolve an atypical situation.

In case of infections, antimicrobial treatment can combat the invading agent. There are protocols for pneumonia, fungal infection and flu-like clinical situations that determine what steps you need to take at each stage.

If the pleurisy is accompanied by pleural effusion, your doctor will consider the need for drainage. In this connection, they can drain the fluid that is inside the pleura with certain procedures. Not all effusions need to be drained.

If a patient has pleurisy, medical professionals must find the cause. As such, they will seek the complementary methods they deem appropriate to obtain a diagnosis. Once they have discovered the cause, they can indicate a treatment to address the underlying situation.

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