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Symptoms and treatment of pleuritis

Many people think pleurisy is a disease in itself, but in reality, pleurisy, also called pleuritis, is usually a symptom caused by an already-present infection, such as a cold, a chest infection or lung disease. Although the exact cause isn't always known, pleurisy can be treated and is rarely serious. Here are some tips on what to look for when determining if you have pleurisy.

Pleurisy Symptoms and Causes

Pleurisy is the swelling of the lining in the lungs, or pleura. It can be a symptom of many different lung problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial or viral infections of the lungs, tuberculosis, chest injury or trauma, or lung cancer. Sometimes the cause cannot be found — this is called idiopathic pleurisy. Signs and symptoms of pleurisy include:

  • Severe chest pain on one or both sides of the stomach and lower chest that grows worse when you take a deep breath or cough
  • Fever
  • Pain when moving
  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Pain that spreads to the back, neck or abdomen

Pleurisy does not cause many complications, but untreated, it may cause already-present lung problems to grow worse. Some complications of pleuritis may include pneumonia or fluid buildup in the lining of the lungs (known as pleural effusion). Sometimes, pleurisy back pain can be a nagging symptom, often growing very severe.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Pleurisy

Your doctor will diagnose pleurisy by listening to your lungs and taking a chest X-ray. He or she may then prescribe medicine, or, if your pleurisy is mild, rest. If you have pleurisy, you should not smoke. To ease the pain, your doctor may suggest wrapping an ace bandage around your chest to support it, or holding a pillow against your chest as you cough. He or she may also suggest the use of a humidifier to make it easier for you to breathe.

If you feel that the medicine and precautions are not helping your pleurisy, or if you are coughing up green or bloody sputum, call your doctor immediately.

Although pleurisy is painful, it can be treated easily and, if caught early, will not develop into pneumonia or other severe chest infections.

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