Symptoms and Signs of Pleural Effusion (Fluid Around the Lungs)

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Medically Reviewed on 4/5/2019

Doctor's Notes on Pleural Effusion (Fluid Around the Lungs)

A pleural effusion is a collection of fluid in the pleural cavity, the space between the lungs and the chest wall. Many different kinds of conditions can cause a pleural effusion to develop. Potential causes include cancers, infections, kidney failure, congestive heart failure, traumatic injury, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, and pulmonary embolism.

Signs and symptoms of a pleural effusion include chest pain, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, asymmetrical expansion of the chest during breathing, and a dry or productive (producing sputum) cough. Other associated symptoms can include pleurisy, which is pain in the chest that occur during breathing. If an infection is the cause of a pleural effusion, symptoms such as fever, chills, fatigue, and decreased appetite may also occur.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.