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Pleurisy: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Pleurisy: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Pleurisy, also referred to as pleuritis, is a condition that occurs when pleura gets inflamed and causes severe chest pain.

Pleura are the two large but thin layers of tissues that cover your lungs. These layers of tissues also comprise a fluid that works as a lubricant. When there is an inflammation in the pleura it rubs against each other and causes pain. Chest pain that increases every time you breathe and difficulty in breathing are the two main symptoms of the condition.



Sharp chest pain that increases every time you breathe or cough is the main symptom of pleuritis. Other symptoms include:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Constant pain in the chest
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Pain in the shoulder
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Pain in the muscles

In some cases, you may also experience fever, cough, loss of appetite.

Pleurisy can also bring along other complications such as pleural effusion and empyema. Pleural effusion occurs when there is an accumulation of fluid causing excess pressure on the lungs. This affects the proper functioning of the lungs.

In some cases, individuals with the condition may experience difficulty in breathing but the chest pain may vanish as the fluid accumulation acts as a lubricant. Individuals with the condition may also experience fever and dry cough. This excess accumulation of fluid accompanied by fever and dry cough may cause an infection resulting in empyema.


There are numerous causes of pleurisy. A viral infection is considered the most common cause of the condition. Other causes include:

  • Fungal infection
  • Tuberculosis
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Bronchitis
  • Tumour in the chest or lungs
  • Pulmonary emboli
  • Systemic lupus
  • Lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma

Injury to the chest or any complications in heart surgery can also lead to pleurisy.

Certain medications can also be the cause of pleuritis.

Risk Factors

You are more likely to develop pleurisy if:

  • You have any autoimmune diseases
  • A history of infections
  • You are over 65 years of age
  • Family history of the condition
  • You have inflammatory bowel disease
  • You have asbestosis


If you have any symptoms associated with pleuritis, consult your doctor. Your doctor may ask you about your symptoms and triggers, medical history, and do a physical examination.

Inform your doctor about your recent travel history and life changes. During the physical examination, using a stethoscope your doctor may examine the sound of pleural membranes.

Your doctor may also recommend certain medical tests to diagnose pleuritis:

X-ray – Your doctor may recommend a decubitus chest X-ray that will help him/her to monitor if there’s any build-up of fluid or inflammation in the lungs.

Blood tests – Your doctor may recommend blood tests to check for any infection and also diagnose any autoimmune disorders.

CT scan or MRI scan – These tests are helpful to diagnose inflammation and accumulation of fluid in the lungs with the help of images created using high-frequency sound waves.

Thoracoscopy – In this procedure, your doctor may insert a thin tube-like structure inside your chest cavity that has a camera at one end. Your doctor will monitor the images on a monitor screen, which are captured using the camera. This will help to have a clear view of your chest and lungs from inside.

Thoracentesis – This procedure is similar to thoracoscopy, but the only difference is your doctor may remove a sample of small tissue of the pleura. This sample tissue is monitored under a microscope for detailed analysis.


Your doctor may recommend you the treatment based on the source of pleuritis.

If the cause of the condition is a viral infection, there’s no special treatment required. The condition may recover on its own. In such cases, your doctor may recommend medications to relieve pain.

If the cause of the condition is a bacterial infection, your doctor may recommend antibiotic medications. Make sure you complete the entire dosage of medications. Not completing the dosage may result in the infection coming back and worsening the condition.

If the cause of the condition is a fungal infection, your doctor may recommend antifungal medications to treat pleuritis.

If there’s an excess build-up of fluid in your lungs, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure. In this procedure, your doctor may insert a thin needle in your lung area and remove the fluid.

Aside from the above medications, your doctor may prescribe cough syrup and painkillers to treat cough and relieve pain.

In addition to the treatment, taking rest and adequate sleep helps to heal the condition.

It is important to treat the condition as soon as it is diagnosed. If the condition is left untreated, it may cause severe complications such as atelectasis, sepsis, and empyema.

Lifestyle Changes

  • You may prevent the complication with the help of adequate rest and by consuming a healthy diet.
  • Quit smoking. You may take the help of your doctor and know the right way to quit smoking.
  • Take medications as recommended by your doctor. Make sure you complete the entire dosage of the medications even if you feel better.

Home Remedies

There are no home remedies to treat pleurisy. But certain home remedies are helpful to relieve pain and inflammation.

  • Consuming turmeric milk is helpful to ease chest pain. Turmeric is loaded with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. You may even consider adding honey to the drink.
  • Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties and is helpful to treat an infection. It is also believed that consuming garlic with water on an empty stomach may be beneficial.
  • Increase your intake of ginger. The spice is helpful to ease pain and inflammation. You may even try consuming ginger tea.
  • Chewing tulsi leaves or consuming tulsi tea is helpful to get rid of respiratory infection. The plant has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.

Before trying any home remedies, talk to your doctor and understand if there are any potential side effects.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Nikita Bhalla Updated Sep 22, 2021
Fact Checked by Bianchi Mendoza, R.N.