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Pleurisy overview

Published: July 08, 2009. Updated: July 07, 2009

Pleurisy is an inflammation of the pleura which is the membrane lining the lungs.


Pleurisy can be caused in relation to other diseases of the chest e.g. pneumonia, malignancy (lung cancer, mesothelioma). It can also be caused alone. In this case pleurisy is caused by viral infection, bacterial infection or TB. Other causes include systemic lupus erythematosis, rheumatoid arthritis, liver and kidney disease, heart failure and pulmonary embolism.

Clinical picture

Chest pain on the same side of the affected pleura. Pain is characteristically related to breathing. Patients complain that they are unable to take a deep breath without feeling pain. Pleurisy maybe associated with pleural effusion.


Diagnosis depends on the characteristic clinical manifestations. Examination may reveal pleural friction rub -- the abrasive sound of the pleura's two layers sliding against each other -- in this case the diagnosis is clear. Chest X-ray or CT of the chest can be used to exclude associated disease.


Treatment of the cause if one is found. After excluding the presence of concomitant diseases treatment can be accomplished with an anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen. Cases accompanied by fever may require antibiotics.

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