Pleurisy is a condition that defines an inflammation of the pleura, or two-layered membranes that line and protect the lungs and chest cavity. This inflammation or irritation of the lining may be caused by numerous factors. Pleurisy often causes a fluid build-up at the site of the inflammation between the two membrane layers, which is called "wet" pleurisy. When no fluid build-up occurs, the condition is called "dry" pleurisy. Risks of developing pleurisy increase in those suffering from chronic lung infections or conditions such as bronchitis or tuberculosis. Injuries also often result in pleurisy, as do cancers and blood clots. Learning how to recognise symptoms of pleurisy may help to prevent serious complications such as pneumonia and the formation of scar tissue, which may lead to chronic shortness of breath and pain. Pleurisy can affect all age groups, and both men and women. For those diagnosed with liver, kidney or other disorders as well as those suffering from weakened immune systems, risks increase, but prompt treatment may reduce risks and increase quality of life during the healing process.
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Watch for any sudden or sharp pain that occurs when you cough, laugh or sneeze. Sometimes, pleurisy may cause pain for an individual when breathing, either while standing, sitting or lying down. In some individuals, pain may be felt as a dull ache, while for others, it is felt as a stabbing pain.
Take your temperature. Sometimes, pleurisy may result in a temperature. Remember that any time the body is fighting an infection, a temperature may be noted, as the body's immune system is trying to fight off the infection or inflammation.
Note discomfort on the affected side of the chest when trying to lie down on that side, or even moving the affected side while turning or bending.
Pay attention to any signs of shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or rapid, shallow breathing. Such signs are an indication that a rib may be fractures, or the lungs have been damaged in some way that prevents adequate inhalation or exhalation.
Tips and warnings
- Pleurisy may develop from fungal, viral or bacterial infections. If you have been subjected to any type of injury, no matter how mild, that affected the chest or ribs, it might be a good idea to obtain some X-rays to make sure nothing is broken or damaged.
- Left untreated, pleurisy may cause severe difficulties breathing. Seek medical help immediately if you or a family member or friend experiences any difficulty breathing.