George Schiffman, MD, FCCP
Dr. Schiffman received his B.S. degree with High Honors in biology from Hobart College in 1976. He then moved to Chicago where he studied biochemistry at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle. He attended Rush Medical College where he received his M.D. degree in 1982 and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. He completed his Internal Medicine internship and residency at the University of California, Irvine.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Pleurisy facts
- What is pleurisy?
- What causes pleurisy?
- How does the pleura work?
- What are the symptoms of pleurisy?
- How is pleurisy diagnosed?
- How is pleurisy treated?
- Can pleurisy be prevented?
- Find a local Pulmonologist in your town
What is pleurisy?
Pleurisy describes the chest pain syndrome characterized by a sharp chest pain that worsens with breathing.
Pleurisy is caused by inflammation of the linings around the lungs (the pleura), a condition also known as pleuritis. There are two layers of pleura: one covering the lung (termed the visceral pleura) and the other covering the inner wall of the chest (the parietal pleura). These two layers are lubricated by pleural fluid.
Pleurisy is frequently associated with the accumulation of extra fluid in the space between the two layers of pleura. This fluid is referred to as a pleural effusion.
The pain fibers of the lung are located in the pleura. When this tissue becomes inflamed, it results in a sharp pain in the chest that is worse with breathing. Other symptoms of pleurisy can include cough, chest tenderness, and shortness of breath.
What causes pleurisy?
Pleurisy can be caused by any of the following conditions:
- Infections: bacterial (including those that cause tuberculosis), fungi, parasites, or viruses
- Inhaled chemicals or toxic substances: exposure to some cleaning agents like ammonia
- Collagen vascular diseases: lupus, rheumatoid arthritis
- Cancers: for example, the spread of lung cancer or breast cancer to the pleura
- Tumors of the pleura: mesothelioma or sarcoma
- Congestion: heart failure
- Pulmonary embolism: blood clot inside the blood vessels to the lungs. These clots sometimes severely reduce blood and oxygen to portions of the lung and can result in death to that portion of lung tissue (termed lung infarction). This, too, can cause pleurisy.
- Obstruction of lymph channels: as a result of centrally located lung tumors
- Trauma: rib fractures or irritation from chest tubes used to drain air or fluid from the pleural cavity in the chest
- Certain drugs: drugs that can cause lupus-like syndromes (such as hydralazine [Apresoline], Procan [Pronestyl, Procan-SR, Procanbid - these brands no longer are available in the U.S.], phenytoin [Dilantin], and others)
- Abdominal processes: such as pancreatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, gallbladder disease, and damage to the spleen.
- Pneumothorax: air in the pleural space, occurring spontaneously or from trauma.
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