Pleurisy is inflammation of the sheet-like layers that cover the lungs (the pleura).

The most common symptom of pleurisy is a sharp Chest pain when breathing deeply. Sometimes the pain is also felt in the shoulder.

The pain may be worse when you cough, sneeze or move around, and it may be relieved by taking shallow breaths.

Other symptoms can include shortness of breath and a dry cough .

Visit your GP if youexperience the above symptoms.Seek immediate medical help if your chest pain is severe, particularly if you also have other symptoms, such as coughing up blood, nausea or sweating.

Seeing your GP

Pleurisy can usually be diagnosed by studying your symptoms. Your GP can listen to your chest to check for the distinctive dry, crunching sound that suggests you may have pleurisy.

Further tests may beneeded to identify the underlying cause of your pleurisy and to assess how severe it is. These can include:

  • blood tests to determine whether you have an infection or an autoimmune condition
  • chest X-rays
  • an ultrasound scan
  • a computerised tomography (CT) scan
  • a biopsy a small sample of pleural or lung tissue is removed for further testing

What causes pleurisy?

Most cases are the result of aviral infection (such as the flu ) ora bacterial infection (such as pneumonia ).

In rarer cases, pleurisy can be caused by conditionssuch asa blood clot blocking the flow of blood into the lungs ( pulmonary embolism )or lung cancer .

Pleurisy can affect people of all ages, but people of 65 years and over are most at risk, because they're more likely to develop a chest infection .

For example, pleurisy caused by a viral infection will often resolve itself without treatment.However, pleurisy caused by a bacterial infection is usually treated with antibiotics , and people who are frail or already in poor health may be admitted to hospital.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) , such as ibuprofen , are often used to relieve the chest pain associated with pleurisy.

If excess fluid builds up between the pleural layers, it may be necessary to drain the fluid to prevent breathing difficulties.


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 23 Jun 2016