What is Pleurisy?


Pleurisy (also called pleuritis) is inflammation of the lining (known as the pleura) around the lungs, which can cause sharp chest pains that worsen with inhaling and exhaling. The pleura is made up of two slippery membranes that cushion the lungs as they inflate and deflate with air. The visceral pleura covers the surface of the lungs, while the partial pleura lines the inside of the chest wall and diaphragm. The space between the membranes is called the pleural cavity, which contains a special liquid called pleural fluid.

How Pleurisy Affects the Lining of the Lungs

If you think of a bag of slick, oiled metal ball-bearings that can easily slide over and around each other, you can get a good idea of the purpose of the pleural fluid. It coats and lubricates the lungs, working with the pleural membranes to create a smooth motion when breathing.

Now, imagine for a moment if you will, that you are holding the bag filled with completely smooth and oiled metal ball bearings. If you were to add just a bit of grit or sand, the ball bearings are not going to be able to glide easily. That, in essence, is what inflammation of the pleural membranes is like.

Instead of being slick, the inflammation causes the membrane surfaces to become sticky and rough. This makes breathing painful. Pleurisy is often associated with pleural effusion, a disorder in which the space between the lungs is filled with additional fluid.  Pleurisy can be caused by several conditions, such as infections by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi. It can also be triggered by auto-immune disorders like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, as well as cancer, heart failure, and pulmonary embolism (a blood clot inside the lung), and other medical conditions.

Symptoms of pleurisy include:

In order to diagnose pleurisy, your doctor may want to run certain tests such as a chest X-ray, blood tests to detect an infection, ultrasound, an EKG to monitor your heart and rule out heart related issues, or a CT scan to view your lungs. Your doctor may also remove some fluid from your lungs for testing.

Only a qualified physician can diagnose pleurisy and rule out other causes. If you think you might have pleurisy, you should seek immediate medical attention. Pleurisy is a serious illness that requires careful treatment.

If you or a loved one have questions about pleurisy or sleeping problems, or would like to schedule a sleep study, call Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine at 8154777350, or request an appointment online today. At Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, we care about your sleep and your good health.

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