Pleurisy is the name for the inflammation of the pleura, which is the membrane which surrounds and protects the lungs. It is often associated with pleural effusion. What are the causes and the treatments for it?
What is pleurisy?
Pleurisy is the name for the inflammation of the pleura. It can suddenly appear (acute pleurisy) or last for a period of time (chronic pleurisy). The pleura is the moist membrane which is wrapped around the lungs. It is made up of two layers of tissue: a layer of parietal bone found in the rib cagewhile the visceral layer is situated against the lungs. This protective coating reduces any friction between the lungs and the chest when you breathe. When the pleura is inflamed, it becomes hard and rough. The two layers therefore start to rub against each other. This friction produces a sound, called friction rubbing, which can be heard with a stethoscope.
There is a difference between pleural effusion (when an excess of liquid accumulates in the lungs) and pleurisy without effusion, known as dry pleurisy.
Pleurisy most often translates into a thoracic pain usually experienced on one side of the ribcage. The pain increases with every breath, whether normal or deep, as well as when you cough or sneeze. You may also have breathing difficulties on one side and a dry cough. When the illness comes from an infection, you may experience a fever.
Causes of pleurisy
Pleurisy is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection. It can also be a secondary lung problem caused by pneumonia, tuberculosis or lung cancer. Furthermore, some illnesses can disturb the balance of liquid and lead to a pleural effusion such as heart failure, liver cirrhosis or a tumour.
Treatments for pleurisy
The treatment advised for pleurisy depends on what is causing the inflammation. - Viral infection: pleurisy usually is cured by itself - Bacterial infection: taking a course of antibiotics - Tuberculosis: taking a course of anti-tuberculosis medicines- Lung cancer: chemotherapy or surgery To relieve the pain, anti-inflammatories may be prescribed. A pleural puncture can also help drain the pleural effusion if it is significant.