What are the causes and treatment options for pleuritis?

Symptom Database

Pleuritis, also known as pleurisy, is a condition characterized by inflammation of the pleura, the thin membranes that line the chest cavity and surround the lungs. This inflammation can cause sharp chest pain and discomfort, making it important to understand the causes and treatment options for pleuritis.

Symptoms of Pleuritis

The most common symptom of pleuritis is chest pain, which can range from mild to severe. The pain is often sharp and worsens with deep breathing, coughing, or sneezing. Other symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry cough
  • Fever
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shallow breathing

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Causes of Pleuritis

Pleuritis can be caused by various factors, including:


Inflammation of the pleura can occur due to infections, such as pneumonia or lung infections. It can also be a result of autoimmune conditions, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the pleura.

Pleural Effusion

Pleuritis can be accompanied by the accumulation of fluid in the pleural space, known as pleural effusion. This can occur due to infections, congestive heart failure, liver or kidney disease, or certain cancers.

Treatment Options for Pleuritis

The treatment of pleuritis aims to relieve symptoms, reduce inflammation, and address the underlying cause. The specific treatment options may vary depending on the severity and cause of the condition.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation associated with pleuritis. These include medications like ibuprofen or naproxen. In some cases, corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation.

Treating Underlying Infections

If pleuritis is caused by an infection, such as pneumonia, appropriate antibiotics or antiviral medications may be prescribed to treat the underlying infection and alleviate symptoms.

Draining Pleural Effusion

If pleural effusion is present, the fluid may need to be drained to relieve symptoms and prevent complications. This can be done through a procedure called thoracentesis, where a needle is inserted into the pleural space to remove the excess fluid.

Treating Underlying Conditions

If pleuritis is a result of an underlying condition, such as an autoimmune disease, treating the underlying condition is essential. This may involve medications to suppress the immune system or manage the underlying disease.

Prevention and Self-Care

While pleuritis may not always be preventable, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk and manage symptoms:

  • Avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke, as it can irritate the lungs and increase the risk of respiratory conditions.
  • Practice good hygiene, such as washing hands regularly, to reduce the risk of infections that can lead to pleuritis.
  • Seek prompt medical attention if you develop symptoms of respiratory infections, such as cough, fever, or difficulty breathing.
  • Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for managing any underlying conditions, such as autoimmune diseases, to reduce the risk of pleuritis.

It is important to note that pleuritis can vary in severity and duration. While some cases may resolve with appropriate treatment, others may require ongoing management of the underlying condition.

In conclusion, pleuritis is a respiratory condition characterized by inflammation of the pleura, causing chest pain and discomfort. It can be caused by various factors, including infections and autoimmune conditions. Treatment options for pleuritis focus on relieving symptoms, reducing inflammation, and addressing the underlying cause. Medications, draining pleural effusion, and treating underlying conditions are common approaches. Prevention and self-care measures can also help reduce the risk and manage symptoms. If you experience symptoms of pleuritis, it is important to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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