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Pleurisy refers to an inflammation of the pleura, or the lining of the plural cavity, which surrounds the lungs. Also called pleuritis, pleurisy is a collection of symptoms rather than a disease itself.

The Causes of Pleurisy

Pleural EffusionAlthough the most common cause of pleurisy is an infection such as pneumonia or tuberculosis, this condition may be symptomatic of other health problems. These include:

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  • Asbestos-related disease, like mesothelioma
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Trauma to the chest

The telltale sign of pleurisy is a sharp pain in the chest that is intensified when the patient coughs, breathes deeply, or sneezes. Some people may feel discomfort in their shoulders as well. The accumulation of fluid in the chest that often accompanies pleurisy, called pleural effusion, may cause coughing and shortness of breath.

Diagnosing Pleurisy

People with pleurisy tend to produce a grating sound with each breath, caused by increased friction as the lungs rub together. Asbestos Cancer TreatmentA doctor can hear this distinctive sound through a stethoscope or by simply listening to the patient’s chest with an unaided ear. While this may provide the first clue that a patient has pleurisy, a doctor may use chest X-rays, CT scans of the chest, and ultrasound to confirm a pleurisy diagnosis.

Treatments for Pleurisy

Treatment for pleurisy typically focuses on resolving the trigger for the condition – for example, treating a patient’s pneumonia with antibiotics. However, if there is no cure for the initial condition, treatment may focus on alleviating symptoms by removing infected fluid from the lungs through a needle or tube.

In some cases, a procedure called pleurodesis is used to treat patients Pleurodesiswith pleurisy. This involves the insertion of an inflammatory substance into the chest cavity. The resulting scar tissue binds the inner and outer pleural layers together, thereby preventing further fluid buildup.

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