Pleurisy is the inflammation of the pleura or the membranes that separate the lungs from the chest wall. It is necessary to identify the pleurisy symptoms in the initial stages, to avoid unwanted complications…
Pleurisy, or pleuritis, occurs when both the layers of pleura (the membrane in the lungs) are inflamed due to certain infections. Pleura protects the lungs and reduces the friction between them when they contract and expand in the process of breathing. There are two layers, one layer covers the lungs and is called visceral pleura whereas, the other sac known as parietal pleura forms a lining to cover the inner wall of the chest.
The pleural fluid keeps both these layers well lubricated. Accumulation of extra fluid or pleural effusion can often be related to pleurisy. Excess fluid in the pleural space is also referred to as “water around the lungs”. It can be an indication of underlying lung diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis (TB), influenza or flu. Pleurisy symptoms can also be observed in people suffering from rheumatic diseases, asbestosis, etc.
Pleurisy can be divided into two types – bacterial and viral – depending on the cause. Apart from these, there are also a few other causes like fungal infections, chest muscle strain, pericarditis (or inflammation around the heart), exposure to ammonia, improper blood or oxygen supply to the lungs, etc. An individual suffering from cancer, especially breast or lung cancer, can also be affected by this lung disease. Fractures to the ribs or trauma in the lungs due to accident, pulmonary embolism (blood clot inside the lungs), obstructed lymph nodes, drug reactions, etc. can damage the lung tissue, resulting in pleuritis.
Symptoms of Pleurisy
Though pleuritis can affect individuals from all age groups, it is predominant in people who are 65 years of age or above. This is because individuals in this age group are more vulnerable to chest infection. Observing the signs in the initial stages can help avoid complications. The symptoms are further classified as initial and severe, depending on the intensity of the condition.
- Chest pain, especially while taking deep breaths. It is usually preceded by a burning sensation or dull ache in the region surrounding the lungs.
- Skin discoloration (cyanosis) around the chest.
- Stinging sensation in the neck, abdomen and shoulders.
- Dry cough followed by shortness of breath or rapid shallow breaths, also referred to as tachypnea. The cough may also be wet with traces of phlegm and blood.
- Fever, chills, poor appetite and unexplained weight loss.
- Sudden and intense chest pain
- Very high fever
- Chest tightness
- Unexplained fatigue, that may set in easily
- Rapid heart rate
There are various methods for treating pleurisy, depending on its cause. Chest X-ray, blood test and physical exam is conducted. To diagnose the exact cause and nature of this disease, the doctor may perform thoracentesis, a process where the fluid is removed and tested for any infection. Once the diagnostic tests are over, the doctor will proceed to treatment. A few methods of treatment are listed below.
- Normally viral pleurisy is known to resolve itself without any medication. However, antibiotics may be required to treat bacterial infection.
- If you are suffering from pleurisy caused due to blood clot in the lungs, the doctor may prescribe anticoagulants in order to dissolve the blood clots and improve the flow of blood.
- In case of pleural effusion, you may need to undergo a procedure known as pleurodesis, which involves the introduction of an irritant (normally a chemical or medication) into the pleural sac. The irritant triggers inflammation, causes the lining to swell and stick together. This in turn, covers the space between the sacs and prevents reaccumulation of the fluid around the lungs.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed to reduce tissue inflammation. In extreme cases, a surgical procedure is required in order to drain out the infected fluid, caused due to bacterial infection.
The prognosis of this lung problem depends on the causative factor. In case of bacterial pleurisy, the expected outcome is mixed since people may develop complications that can result in permanent lung damage. On the other hand, viral pleurisy can be cured and people recover completely, with no prior signs of this disorder. It is essential to diagnose pleurisy symptoms in the early stages and it is advisable to immediately undergo treatment in order to avoid further complications.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.