The pleura is made up to two layers of thin, firm tissue that serves as a lining for the lining for the lungs. The first layer is the visceral pleura, which serves as a covering for the lungs. The parietal pleura covers the inner wall of the chest, lubricated by the pleural fluid. Pleurisy is a condition where there is an inflammation of the pleura. The inflammation can cause a sharp, stabbing pain at the chest that is aggravated by breathing. Coughing, sneezing, and even turning the upper body or torso can be excruciatingly painful for some. The pain is so intense that some patients subconsciously promote shallow breathing to lessen the pain. There are several factors that have been seen as pleurisy causes.
- Infections – bacteria, viruses, fungus, and parasites are some of the identified pleurisy causes. Those who have tuberculosis infection often have pain brought about by pleurisy.
- Chemicals – inhaled chemicals such as ammonia can disturb the pleural tissue.
- Collagen vascular diseases – these diseases include lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Pleural tumors – mesothelioma or sarcoma are found to cause a disturbance in the pleural tissue as well as the pleural fluid.
- Trauma – rib fractures or bruises or irritation from chest tube drainage during thoracentesis.
If you are diagnosed with pleurisy, the doctor will recommend treatment for pain as well as towards any of the identified pleurisy causes. NSAID’s are given to help ease pain and inflammation along some antibiotics if the cause is bacterial, fungal, or parasitical. NSAID’s alone are given if pleurisy is caused by a viral infection as the viral conditions often self-limiting. Stronger medications may be given if NSAID’s do not ease the pain, and corticosteroids may be prescribed if the inflammation does not respond to NSAID’s. It is important that you also get adequate rest as your body recovers. The less you move, the less you disturb your pleura. You will also be able to store enough energy needed to help you battle whatever it is that is causing your pleurisy. If breathing is a problem, a splint or bandage wrapped around your chest may help lessen the pain. If you cannot tolerate the pain, it is advised that you ask the doctor for a stronger pain medication.