How Do Doctors Diagnose Pleurisy?
The doctor will ask you many questions about the pain, such as where it is located, how long it has been there, and how you've tried to make it better. The doctor will also ask about your personal habits, especially smoking, including the use of tobacco and street drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. Do not hide any information from the doctor. Anything you say will be just between the two of you, and you won't get in trouble with the law.
The doctor will perform a complete physical examination and may do a number of tests to exclude other conditions.
- A doctor or nurse will check your blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, and the oxygen saturation of your blood.
- The doctor will look at your skin for rashes or bruises. Infections of the skin such as shingles can cause chest pain, as can bruises.
- The doctor may press on your chest. If you have pain that the doctor can duplicate, especially in front where the ribs come together on the breast bone, you may have costochondritis, which is an inflammation of the cartilage of the chest.
- The doctor will listen closely with a stethoscope to your lungs. By listening, the doctor can sometimes tell whether you have other diseases of the lungs, such as asthma, emphysema, pneumonia, or a collapsed lung (pneumothorax). Some people with pleurisy develop a rubbing sound that is heard over the area that hurts. The doctor will also listen to your heart's rate and rhythm and determine whether you have any murmurs or extra heart sounds that may indicate a defect in or injury to the heart.
- You may need an x-ray of your chest.
- The doctor may order electrocardiogram (ECG).
- Some of your blood may be sent to the lab for analysis to help rule out other causes of chest pain.
Can Pleurisy Symptoms Be Treated at Home?
Some chest pain is dangerous. Sometimes even an experienced doctor can't tell you the exact cause of your pain. Pleurisy is frequently diagnosed only when other more serious causes have been ruled out.
- Use an anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen (Motrin) or aspirin, to reduce the pain and inflammation.
- You may have less pain if you lie on the side that hurts.
- Avoid exerting yourself or doing anything that would cause you to breathe hard.
- Call your doctor or go to your hospital's emergency department if you can't breathe deeply or cough because of severe pain.
Last Reviewed 9/11/2017
Christopher P Holstege, MD
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