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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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Pleurisy - Overview

What are the symptoms? continued...

But this type of chest pain can be caused by conditions that do not affect the pleura, such as chest muscle strain and costochondritis.

If a viral infection is causing your pleurisy, you may or may not have common viral symptoms, such as fever, headache, and muscle aches.

The inflammation of the pleura sometimes causes fluid to build up in the pleural cavity (pleural effusion). You may have less pain after this happens, because the fluid prevents the two layers of the pleura from rubbing together. If there is a large amount of fluid, it may prevent the lung from expanding when you breathe in. This can make it hard to breathe. Other symptoms of pleural effusion include fever, chest pain, and a dry cough.

Pleural effusion camera.gif may occur without pleurisy in other conditions, such as heart failure or liver or kidney disease.

How is pleurisy diagnosed?

Many different health problems can lead to pleurisy, so your doctor will look for what is causing your inflammation. He or she will use a physical exam and a chest X-ray to look for signs of conditions that may cause pleuritic chest pain, such as:

If your doctor thinks your pleurisy may be caused by an autoimmune disease such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, he or she may do blood tests.

If you have pleural effusion, your doctor may use a needle to remove some of the fluid from the pleura. This procedure is called thoracentesis. The fluid is then studied, to help your doctor find out the cause of the effusion.

See pictures of pleural effusion camera.gif and thoracentesis camera.gif.

How is pleurisy treated?

The treatment for pleurisy depends on the cause. For example, if a bacterial infection is the cause, you will probably need an antibiotic. If a pulmonary embolism is present, you may get medicine to dissolve the clot or to prevent future blood clots (anticoagulants).

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