PleurisyPleuritis; Pleuritic chest pain
Pleurisy is an inflammation of the lining of the lungs and chest (the pleura) that leads to chest pain when you take a breath or cough.
Pleurisy may develop when you have lung inflammation due to infection, such as a viral infection, pneumonia, or tuberculosis.
Pneumonia is a breathing (respiratory) condition in which there is an infection of the lung. This article covers community-acquired pneumonia (CAP). ...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious bacterial infection that involves the lungs. It may spread to other organs.Read Article Now Book Mark Article
It may also occur with:
- Certain cancers
- Chest trauma
- Blood clot (pulmonary embolus)
A pulmonary embolus is a blockage of an artery in the lungs. The most common cause of the blockage is a blood clot.Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease. In this disease, the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. It c...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
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 make the pain worse.
Pleurisy can cause fluid to collect inside the chest. As a result, the following symptoms can occur:
- Shortness of breath
Shortness of breath
Breathing difficulty may involve:Difficult breathing Uncomfortable breathingFeeling like you are not getting enough airRead Article Now Book Mark Article
- Rapid breathing
- Pain with deep breaths
Exams and Tests
When you have pleurisy, the normally smooth surfaces lining the lung (the pleura) become rough. They rub together with each breath. This results in a rough, grating sound called a friction rub. Your health care provider may hear this sound with the stethoscope.
The provider may order the following tests:
A complete blood count (CBC) test measures the following:The number of white blood cells (WBC count)The number of red blood cells (RBC count)The numb...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- X-ray of the chest
X-ray of the chest
A chest x-ray is an x-ray of the chest, lungs, heart, large arteries, ribs, and diaphragm.Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- CT scan of the chest
- Ultrasound of the chest
Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to make images of organs and structures inside the body.Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Removal of pleural fluid with a needle (thoracentesis) for analysis
Thoracentesis is a procedure to remove fluid from the space between the lining of the outside of the lungs (pleura) and the wall of the chest....Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Treatment depends on the cause of 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 medicines.
Taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help reduce pain.
Recovery depends on the cause of the pleurisy.
Health problems that may develop from pleurisy include:
- Breathing difficulty
- Fluid buildup between chest wall and lung
- Complications from the original illness
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Contact your provider if you have symptoms of pleurisy. If you have breathing difficulty or your skin turns blue, seek medical care right away.
Early treatment of bacterial respiratory infections can prevent pleurisy.
Fenster BE, Lee-Chiong TL, Gebhart GF, Matthay RA. Chest pain. In: Broaddus VC, Ernst JD, King TE, et al, eds. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 38.
McCool FD. Diseases of the diaphragm, chest wall, pleura, and mediastinum. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 92.
Respiratory system overview - illustration
Air is breathed in through the nasal passageways, travels through the trachea and bronchi to the lungs.
Respiratory system overview
Review Date: 9/1/2021
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Associate in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.