Pleurisy: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Pleurisy: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment


Pleurisy, also known as pleuritis, is a condition that affects the pleura, a double-layered membrane surrounding the lungs and lining the chest cavity. When this protective membrane becomes inflamed, it can lead to a range of discomforting symptoms. In this article, we will delve into the world of pleuritis, exploring its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.


Understanding Pleurisy

Pleurisy occurs when the pleura becomes inflamed, and the normally smooth surfaces of the membrane rub against each other during each breath. This friction can lead to sharp, stabbing chest pain, which is a hallmark symptom of the condition. pleuritis can either be a primary condition or a secondary one, associated with an underlying illness or injury.

Causes of Pleurisy

  1. Viral Infections: The most common cause of pleurisy is viral infections, such as the flu, common cold, or pneumonia. These infections can directly affect the pleura, leading to inflammation.
  2. Bacterial Infections: Bacterial infections like tuberculosis or pneumonia can also cause pleuritis.
  3. Autoimmune Disorders: Certain autoimmune conditions, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), can result in pleuritic inflammation.
  4. Chest Trauma: Injuries to the chest due to accidents, falls, or surgical procedures can lead to pleuritis.
  5. Pulmonary Embolism: Blood clots that travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism) can cause inflammation in the pleura.

Symptoms of Pleurisy

The hallmark symptom of pleuritis is sharp, stabbing chest pain that worsens with breathing, coughing, or sneezing. Other common symptoms include:

  • Shallow breathing to minimize pain
  • Dry cough
  • Fever and chills (if infection-related)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Tenderness or discomfort when pressing on the chest wall

Diagnosing Pleurisy

Diagnosing pleuritis typically involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. During a physical exam, healthcare providers may listen to lung sounds and check for areas of tenderness or pain. To confirm the diagnosis and determine the underlying cause, the following tests may be conducted:

  1. Chest X-ray: X-rays can help identify any abnormalities in the lungs, such as fluid buildup or infections.
  2. CT Scan: A computed tomography (CT) scan provides detailed images of the chest, which can help identify the extent and cause of pleuritis.
  3. Blood Tests: Blood tests may be performed to check for signs of infection, inflammation, or autoimmune conditions.
  4. Thoracentesis: In some cases, a procedure called thoracentesis is performed to remove fluid from the pleural space for analysis.

Treatment of Pleurisy

Treatment of pleuritis focuses on relieving symptoms and addressing the underlying cause. Depending on the cause and severity, treatment options may include:

  1. Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain relievers or prescribed medications can help alleviate chest pain and discomfort.
  2. Treating Underlying Conditions: If pleuritis is secondary to an infection or an underlying condition like pneumonia or autoimmune disease, treating the root cause is essential.
  3. Rest and Adequate Hydration: Resting and staying well-hydrated can help the body recover more effectively.
  4. Corticosteroids: In cases of severe inflammation, corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce swelling and pain.
  5. Thoracentesis: When pleural effusion (accumulation of fluid in the pleural space) is present, thoracentesis can help drain the fluid, relieving pressure on the lungs and easing breathing.
  6. Antibiotics: If pleuritis is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed to eliminate the infection.

Foods of Pleurisy

Certainly, here are some unique points regarding the dietary considerations for individuals with pleurisy:
  1. Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Pleurisy is often associated with inflammation of the pleura, the double-layered membrane surrounding the lungs. Including anti-inflammatory foods in the diet can be beneficial. Examples include fatty fish like salmon, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and colorful fruits and vegetables such as berries, leafy greens, and turmeric, known for their anti-inflammatory properties.
  2. Hydration: Staying well-hydrated is essential for individuals with pleurisy. Proper hydration helps maintain the thin layer of fluid between the pleura, reducing friction and discomfort. Drinking water, herbal teas, and clear broths can aid in staying hydrated.
  3. High-Fiber Foods: Constipation is a common side effect of pain medications prescribed for pleurisy. To prevent or alleviate this issue, incorporate high-fiber foods into your diet, such as whole grains, beans, lentils, and fruits like prunes or pears.
  4. Protein-Rich Foods: Protein is crucial for tissue repair and overall healing. Opt for lean protein sources like chicken, turkey, fish, tofu, and legumes. Protein can also help maintain muscle mass, which may be at risk during prolonged periods of illness.
  5. Small, Frequent Meals: Eating smaller, more frequent meals can help reduce the strain on the diaphragm and chest muscles, making breathing more comfortable for individuals with pleurisy.
  6. Avoid Trigger Foods: Some foods may exacerbate pleuritic pain. It’s essential to identify any specific trigger foods that worsen your symptoms and avoid them. Common culprits include spicy foods, caffeine, and highly acidic foods like citrus fruits and tomatoes.
  7. Soft and Easily Digestible Foods: During periods of severe pain, it may be more comfortable to consume soft and easily digestible foods. Options include oatmeal, yogurt, applesauce, mashed potatoes, and well-cooked vegetables.
  8. Limit Processed and High-Sugar Foods: Processed foods and those high in refined sugars can contribute to inflammation and may worsen overall health. Reducing or eliminating these from your diet can be beneficial for managing pleurisy symptoms.
  9. Vitamin D and Calcium: Adequate vitamin D and calcium intake is essential for bone health, which may be compromised if pleurisy leads to reduced physical activity. Incorporate foods like dairy products, fortified plant-based milk, leafy greens, and fatty fish to support bone strength.
  10. Individualized Approach: Dietary preferences and sensitivities vary from person to person. An individualized approach to diet, based on your specific needs and preferences, can help you better manage pleurisy symptoms and support your overall health.
  11. Consult with a Dietitian: If you have pleurisy or are recovering from it, consider consulting with a registered dietitian. They can provide personalized guidance, create meal plans, and ensure you’re meeting your nutritional requirements while managing your symptoms effectively.

Remember that dietary adjustments should be made in consultation with a healthcare professional, especially if pleurisy is part of a broader medical condition or if you have specific dietary restrictions or allergies. A balanced and thoughtful diet can play a supportive role in managing pleurisy symptoms and promoting recovery.


Pleurisy can range from a mild, self-limiting condition to a more serious problem when it accompanies underlying diseases. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are essential to alleviate symptoms and address the underlying cause. If you experience persistent chest pain, shortness of breath, or other concerning symptoms, seeking prompt medical attention is crucial to ensure proper evaluation and management of pleuritis.

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