How Painful Is Pleurisy?

When you breathe, the thin tissues that line your lungs and chest wall, called the pleura, rub together. Typically this isn’t really a problem, since the tissue is satiny and creates no friction. However, when this tissue is irritated or infected, it becomes inflamed and swollen, triggering considerable pain. This condition is referred to as pleurisy or pleuritis.

Pleurisy is not a common condition. Throughout the years, antibiotics have actually been very successful in treating and avoiding the bacterial infections that historically were the primary causes of pleurisy. Nowadays, most cases of pleurisy are the outcome of a viral infection and deaths from this health problem are rather unusual.

Symptoms and Pain

The primary symptom connected with pleurisy is a sharp, stabbing pain when you breathe. This pain may go away when you hold your breath or put pressure on the painful area. However, the pain will often become worse when you sneeze, cough, or relocation. Fever, chills, and anorexia nervosa are also possible symptoms, depending on the condition that’s causing the pleurisy.

Additional symptoms of pleurisy include:

  • shallow breathing to prevent feeling pain
  • pain in your shoulders and back
  • headaches
  • pain on one side of your chest
  • shortness of breath
  • joint pain
  • muscle pains

Pleurisy can be accompanied by a fluid accumulation that puts pressure on the lungs and causes them to stop working correctly. This fluid accumulation is called a pleural effusion. This fluid may initially act like a cushion, triggering the chest pain to vanish. A person with a pleural effusion will ultimately experience shortness of breath as the fluid boosts. An individual may also experience fever, chills, and a dry cough. These symptoms can show an infection in the fluid, also called an empyema.

What Causes Pleurisy?

Viral infections are the most typical cause of pleurisy. Viruses can cause infections in the lungs, which can result in pleurisy.

Other causes of pleurisy include:

  • rib fractures
  • tuberculosis
  • lymphoma
  • blunt trauma to the chest wall
  • sickle cell anemia
  • chest or lung tumors
  • heart surgery complications
  • embolism in the arteries of your lung, also called lung emboli
  • bronchitis
  • chest injuries
  • lung cancer
  • mesothelioma cancer, which is a cancer caused by asbestos direct exposure
  • bacterial pneumonia
  • fungal or parasitic infections
  • body immune system disorders, such as systemic lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
  • pancreatitis, a condition where the pancreas is inflamed


When your doctor recognizes the source of inflammation or infection, they’ll have the ability to figure out the proper treatment. Getting sufficient rest to assist your body with the recovery procedure is a vital part of getting well. In addition, lying on the side that has pain may offer simply sufficient pressure to make the pain disappear.

Other approaches of treatment consist of:

  • antibiotics for bacterial infection
  • over-the-counter medicines, consisting of aspirin (Bayer), ibuprofen (Advil), or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • prescription pain and cough medication that might contain codeine
  • medications to separate any blood clots or big collections of pus and mucus, which are then drained pipes out through a tube
  • bronchodilators via metered dose inhaler devices, such as those used to treat asthma

Individuals with large quantities of fluid in their lungs (pleural effusions) might have to stay in the medical facility with a drain tube in the chest till fluids drain effectively.

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