Difficulty Breathing or Pleurisy

Chest | Pulmonology | Difficulty Breathing or Pleurisy (Symptom)


Pleurisy refers to a disease involving inflammation of the parietal pleura (coverage skin above the inner surface of the rib cage) and visceral pleura (coverage skin of the lungs), usually as a result of pneumonia. Upon meeting these membranes in contact with the infected lungs, tend to swell causing a sharp pain like a dagger, which intensifies when breathing deeply or coughing.


Pleurisy may develop when you have lung inflammation due to infections such as pneumonia or tuberculosis. This inflammation also causes acute chest pain of pleurisy. It may also occur with asbestos-related disease, certain cancers. Chest trauma, pulmonary embolus, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Other causes of pleurisy include air leaking into the pleural cavity from a hole in a lung (pneumothorax), injury to the chest (such as a broken rib), tuberculosis or other infections, or a tumor in the pleura.

Diagnosis and Treatment

To diagnose pleurisy the doctor will use a physical exam and a chest X-ray to look for signs of conditions that may cause pleuritic chest pain, such as: viral infections, chest muscle strain, rib fracture, blood clots in the blood vessels of the lung, pericarditis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, fluid in the pleura.

The treatment for pleurisy depends on the cause and may include antibiotic, aspirin, ibuprofen, or another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.