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Pleurisy: what is it, symptoms and causes

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

A little known pulmonary condition although of considerable frequency is pleurisy or pleuritis, which consists of the inflammation of the pleurae that cover the lungs and the thoracic cavity. This is a condition that can affect anyone regardless of gender or age, but adults are more prone to it, while children and older adults rarely develop it.

This disorder tends to be the result of an advanced stage of some disease, which does not necessarily start in the lungs. In addition, its duration is not usually very long, but other factors also depend, for example the predisposition of the person and the type of pleuritis, being important to see a specialist when detecting symptoms. If you want to know more about the subject, we invite you to read the following article by FastlyHealabout pleurisy: what it is, symptoms and causes .

What is pleurisy?

The lungs and chest cavity are wrapped in layers of tissue called the visceral pleura and the parietal pleura, respectively. These layers favor the lubrication and protection of the lungs , allowing these organs to expand and contract freely. Also, between these pleurae there is a thin space, the pleural space, which contains a fluid, whose function is that the lungs do not collide with the chest wall when they are inflated.

When these pleurae become inflamed and irritated by any cause , it is considered that one suffers from pleurisy. This causes the layers to come into contact and rub as the lungs expand with breathing or coughing, often causing pain of varying intensity.

Classification of pleurisy

It is possible to distinguish various types of pleurisy, depending on the course of the disease, the level and mode of involvement, as well as the origin of the inflammation. In general terms, they are classified into two large groups that include other varieties, mainly:

  • Dry pleurisy : consists of inflammation of the visceral pleura without an accumulation of fluid in the pleural space. This also causes friction between the pleurae to be greater, increasing pain as the lungs expand.
  • Wet pleurisy : it is characterized by the accumulation of fluid between the pleurae, known as a pleural effusion. Thanks to this fluid, the disease is less painful by reducing the friction between the layers, however, when the fluid accumulates in excess it can also cause there is less space for the lungs to inflate and can even generate pressure on these organs , limiting breathing. Purulent, hemorrhagic, and serous pleuritis are included in this category.

Pleurisy: symptoms

The symptoms of pleurisy depend in part on the variety of it, but some symptoms coincide , although they may not be felt in the same intensity. It is important to know how to identify them and the most prominent are:

  • Chest pain, can be of variable intensity and in some cases it is possible to feel it as twinges, increasing when inhaling deeply, coughing loudly or sneezing.
  • Trouble breathing normally.
  • Pain in the shoulder, caused by the spread of pain from the chest.
  • Fever.
  • Loss of appetite

On the other hand, other symptoms of pleurisy that could be indicating a more specific variety are:

  • Difficulty breathing, you may suffer an intense sensation of shortness of breath.
  • Increase of the respiratory frequence.
  • Recurrent cough, sometimes accompanied by mucous secretions.
  • Cyanosis, that is, the skin turns bluish due to insufficient oxygen supply. An example of this is purple lips .

Pleuresía: causas

There are several reasons why inflammation can develop in the pleurae of the lungs and chest cavity. Suffering from any of them runs the risk of presenting this disorder; However, they do not always progress to pleurisy, especially if the alteration in the body is treated in time. Greater attention should be paid in the case of suffering from any of the main causes of pleurisy, including:

  • Lung infection : it can be of bacterial, viral or fungal origin, although the most frequent infectious agents are the cause of bacterial pneumonia , tuberculosis and epidemic pleurodynia. If the pleurisy is due to bacteria, the fluid in the pleural space may contain pus.
  • Pulmonary embolism : occurs when the pulmonary artery is blocked by a clot, preventing blood flow from reaching the lungs properly, resulting in the pleura becoming inflamed. Generally, this clot is a deep vein thrombosis and usually occurs in the legs, so if it becomes detached it travels to the lungs.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis : although it is a disease that attacks the joints, being a systemic disease, it is possible that the inflammation affects the lungs and in turn the pleurae, which is usually accompanied by pleural effusion. However, pleurisy as a complication of rheumatoid arthritis has a low probability, with an incidence of less than 5% of cases.
  • Thoracic trauma : depending on the force and intensity of an external physical action on the chest, such as deep wounds, blows to the chest wall or fractures in the ribs, it can cause a direct or displacement injury to the pleura, causing them to become inflamed and the accumulation of fluid in the pleural space results, which in few cases could also contain pus.
  • Heart failure : in an attempt by the heart to pump the blood necessary for the body to function properly, it can cause an increase in the pressure of the pulmonary capillary circulation and lead to the entry of excess fluids into the pleural space, irritating and inflaming the pleurae. This condition represents 10% of pleurisy cases.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus : it is an autoimmune disease that is distinguished by causing episodes of inflammation in the connective tissue, affecting different organs such as the lungs and the layer that covers them. Pleurisy can be dry or wet, and if it presents accumulation of fluids, this usually includes serous content and blood components.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Pleurisy: what it is, symptoms and causes , we recommend that you enter our Lung and respiratory tract category .

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