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Pleurisy is inflammation of the lining of the lungs and chest (the pleura) that leads to chest pain (usually sharp) when you take a breath or cough.
Pleuritis; Pleuritic chest pain
It may also occur with:
The main symptom of pleurisy is pain in the chest. This pain often occurs when you take a deep breath in or out, or cough. Some people feel the pain in the shoulder.
Deep breathing, coughing, and chest movement makes the pain worse.
Pleurisy can cause fluid to collect inside the chest cavity. This can make breathing difficult and may cause the following symptoms:
Exams and Tests
When you have pleurisy, the normally smooth surfaces lining the lung (the pleura) become rough. They rub together with each breath, and may produce a rough, grating sound called a "friction rub." Your health care provider can hear this sound with the stethoscope, or by placing an ear against your chest.
The health care provider may perform the following tests:
Treatment depends on what is causing the pleurisy. Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. Surgery may be needed to drain infected fluid from the lungs.
Viral infections normally run their course without medications. Patients often can control the pain of pleurisy with acetaminophen or anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
Recovery depends on what is causing the pleurisy.
- Breathing difficulty
- Collapsed lung due to thoracentesis
- Complications from the original illness
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of pleurisy. If you have breathing difficulty or your skin turns blue, seek immediate medical care.
Early treatment of bacterial respiratory infections can prevent pleurisy.
Celli BR. Diseases of the diaphragm, chest wall, pleura, and mediastinum. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 100.
Lee-Chiong T, Gebhart GF, Matthay RA. Chest pain. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus VC, Martin TR, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel’s Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 30.
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.