When inflammation or swelling occurs in the pleura, which is the thin tissue layers that cover the inside of the chest’s wall and the lungs, it is referred to as pleurisy or pleuritis. The pleural cavity is a very small space that is found in between these layers of pleura. When a person breathes, the lubricating fluid that is contained in this cavity is what allows the layers to freely move over one another. The pleuritic pain that is caused by pleurisy will often happen when inflammation of the pleura occurs. This is because the layers of pleura are then able to rub against each other, resulting in chest pain.
There are Several Different Causes of Pleurisy
Bacteria or a virus that causes an infection in a person’s lower respiratory system are a few reasons why pleurisy might occur in a person that is young and healthy. There are also rare cases where pleurisy can be spread to others that are affected by the bacteria or virus. In a majority of cases the symptoms of pleurisy only last from a couple of days to a few weeks. Below is a list of certain conditions and causes that can lead to pleurisy.
- Pulmonary embolism
- It is sometimes a problem that will develop after heart surgery
- Pneumothorax, which is a hole in the lung causing air to leak in the pleural cavity
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chest injuries like a broken rib
- Sickle cell crisis
- Infections such as tuberculosis
- A tumor that develops in the pleura
Common Symptoms that Pleurisy Can Cause
A person that has this condition will often find it hard to breathe and they experience pain in the chest that generally comes on very quickly. In a majority of cases the patient will feel a stabbing like pain that increases in intensity with they try to breathe. Below is a list of common changes a person will often notice with the pain of pleurisy.
- The stabbing pains they feel are normally only felt on one side of the person’s chest.
- The pain can extend from the chest to the belly or one of their shoulders.
- Even though the pain may be continuously felt, avoiding deep breaths can help to prevent some of the discomfort.
- When the area of pain is pressed on, the pain is often relieved. Holding your breath may even decrease the severity of the pain.
- Sudden movement, sneezing, and coughing tend to cause the pain of pleurisy to worsen.
Factors Involved When Physicians Diagnose Pleurisy
The first step a physician will generally take is to do is an x-ray of the chest and a physical exam to determine what is causing the inflammation. Tests like these often show specific health conditions that causes the symptoms of pleurisy. In some cases it can be from muscles in the chest have been strained, and in others in can be caused by conditions like pneumonia. Various blood tests may also be needed if the doctor suspects an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus to be the cause of the chest pain.