Does Pleurisy Go Away on Its Own?

Does Pleurisy Go Away on Its Own

Your lungs are protected by a thin layer of tissue (called the pleura) that covers both the lungs and the inside of your chest wall. A small amount of lubricating fluid normally makes it possible for the two layers to slide over each other when you breathe in and out. But when the pleurae are inflamed, they rub against each other, causing pain that can make it hard to breathe properly.

Inflammation of the pleura is usually caused by infection, although it may also be a symptom of certain health conditions such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Other causes of pleurisy include trauma to the chest, such as following a fall or an accident. A buildup of air in the pleural cavity, known as pneumothorax, can also cause pleuritic pain, and this condition often occurs after trauma to the chest.

Treatment of pleurisy generally involves relieving symptoms while treating the cause of the inflammation. Antibiotics are usually given to treat bacterial infections that are the cause of pleuritic pain. Non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, are also often given to relieve the pain of pleurisy.

The pain of pleurisy tends to get worse as you move your upper body, or if you cough or sneeze. You might also find that your coughing worsens as the pleuritic pain gets worse.

It takes a while for most people to recover from pleurisy, but it’s important to see your doctor when you have the pain, so that it can be treated. Depending on the underlying cause, your doctor will recommend different treatments.

Bacterial Infections and Pneumonia: Most pleuritic pain and breathing problems are caused by viral or bacterial infections. Most viral infections will clear up without treatment, but if the infection is severe or your doctor suspects it’s caused by another condition such as lupus or rheumatoid disease, you’ll need antibiotics to prevent the infection from getting worse.

Blood tests: Your doctor will take a sample of your blood to look for signs of infection, or autoimmune disorders such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. They will also listen to your heart’s rhythm and rate with a stethoscope. They may also use a test to check for abnormal lung sounds, such as a “pleural friction rub” sound that is heard over the area of your lungs that hurts when you breathe in or out.

Other tests: Your doctor will do physical examinations and other medical tests to confirm the diagnosis of pleurisy. They will listen to your breathing with a stethoscope and check for other abnormal breathing sounds or lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema or pneumonia. They might use a chest X-ray or electrocardiogram to take pictures of your heart and lungs.

If your pleurisy is accompanied by a lot of fluid, your doctor might drain the fluid to help with your breathing. This can be done in the hospital under a general anaesthetic or under local anaesthetic, where a needle is inserted into your chest.