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Symptoms and Signs of Pleurisy

Doctor's Notes on Pleurisy (Pleural Effusion) Symptoms, Duration, and Treatments

Pleurisy is inflammation of the tissues that line the lung and the chest cavities, known as the pleura. Infections are a common cause of pleurisy. Other diseases and conditions that can cause pleurisy include congestive heart failure, cancer that has spread to the lungs or pleura, pulmonary embolism, trauma or injury, and certain collagen vascular diseases. Sometimes, conditions of the abdomen, such as pancreatitis or cirrhosis of the liver, can cause pleurisy.

The pleura contains the pain nerve fibers of the lung, so inflammation of the pleura causes characteristic symptoms and signs. Symptoms of pleurisy include chest pain that is worse when breathing in, tenderness, and shortness of breath. The pain can occur on the front or the back of the chest. Cough or a “stabbing” sensation can be an associated symptom.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Pleurisy (Pleural Effusion) Symptoms, Duration, and Treatments Symptoms

You can have many symptoms with pleurisy.

  • Chest pain: This is the most common symptom. The pain is generally a sharp, stabbing pain, but may also be a dull ache or a burning sensation. It is usually worse when you take a deep breath, cough, or move around. The pain is usually better if you take shallow breaths or lie on the side that hurts. Chest pain is what usually causes people with pleurisy to seek medical attention.
  • Cough: You may get a cough, depending on the cause of the pleurisy. Your cough may be dry or productive of sputum or blood.
  • Shortness of breath: The shortness of breath associated with pleurisy may be due to the underlying cause, such as a blood clot in the lungs or pneumonia, or it may be due to the chest pain caused by breathing.
  • Fever: You may also get a fever, depending on the cause of the pleurisy.

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.

Pleurisy (Pleural Effusion) Symptoms, Duration, and Treatments Causes

There are many causes of pleurisy.

Germs Everyday Items with the Most Bacteria Slideshow

Germs Everyday Items with the Most Bacteria  Slideshow

Swimming pools are a lot of fun for kids, and a great way to stay fit. But did you know that swimming pools actually contain a lot of poop? A Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study found that 70% of public pools, 66% of water parks, and 49% of pools in private clubs had evidence of E. coli bacteria contamination, which is commonly found in fecal matter. E. coli can cause severe bloody diarrhea. Chlorine doesn't always kill germs right away, and some germs are more resistant than others.

Pools frequented by children can be the worst as children may not have the best hygiene habits and may not clean themselves before going in the pool. Further, swim diapers are not effective in preventing bacteria and urine from leaking. And let's face it, kids pee in the pool. Urine binds to chlorine, thus using it up and leaving less to kill bacteria.

The best defenses against recreational water illnesses (RWIs) include not swallowing water, staying out of the water if you have diarrhea, not peeing in the pool, and showering before you get into the water. If you have kids, get them out of the pool every hour for a bathroom break, and check diapers. Don't forget to reapply sunblock!


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