Pleurisy is a condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the lungs and chest (the pleura). The pleura protect and lubricate the surface of the lungs as they inflate and deflate within the rib cage. There is a small space between them, called the pleural space, which is usually filled with a liquid that allows the two layers of pleural membrane to gently glide along one another.  However, once the pleura become irritated and inflamed, the liquid dissolves and the two layers end up rubbing painfully against one another like two pieces of sandpaper. This causes an individual to have sharp chest pain (pleuritic pain) that worsens during breathing or coughing.

In some cases of pleurisy, pleural effusion can occur. This is where an increased amount of fluid builds up in the small space between the two layers of tissue, causing pressure on the lungs and reducing their ability to move freely, making breathing difficult.

There are a number of conditions that can be a possible cause for pleurisy. Treatment options usually involve pain management and treating the underlying condition.



Signs and symptoms of pleurisy might include:

·         Chest pain that worsens when breathing/coughing

·         Dry cough

·         Shortness of breath

·         Fever and chills

·         Rapid heart beat

·         Sore throat





There are two large, thin layers of tissue called pleura that separate the lungs from the chest wall. One layer wraps around the outside of the lungs and the other layer lines the inner chest wall. Between these two layers, there is  a small space called pleural space that is usually filled with a very small amount of liquid. This allows for the lungs to expand and contract without any resistance. When the pleura become irritated and inflamed, the two layers rub again each other like two pieces of sandpaper. With no fluid in the middle to help glaze them along, the pleura make it difficult to breathe and cause chest pain. 

Causes of pleurisy include the following:

·         A viral infection (influenza)

·         A bacterial infection (pneumonia)

·         A fungal infection

·         Rheumatoid disease (rheumatoid arthritis)

·         Drug reactions

·         Chest injuries

·         Lung cancer near the pleural surface




Possible complications that can arise from pleurisy include the following:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Collapsed lung: A large amount of fluid buildup in a small space between two layers of tissue can cause pressure on the lung to the point where it partially or completely collapses
  • Complications from the underlying condition




Treatment options used in pleurisy and pleural effusion typically focus on treating the underlying cause. For example, if bacterial pneumonia is the cause, an antibiotic is recommended to help control the infection. If the cause is viral, pleurisy will resolve on its own with no need for treatment. Depending on the severity of the underlying disease, an individual can make a full recovery if pleurisy is diagnosed and treated early on.



Early detection and treatment of bacterial respiratory infections can help prevent pleurisy.