Pleurisy (PLOOR-i-see) is an inflammation * of the membrane * that covers the lungs and lines the chest cavity. The lining is called the pleura (PLOOR-a).
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What Is Pleurisy?
In pleurisy, the membrane covering the lungs and lining the chest cavity becomes inflamed, and excess fluids may build up in the space. When people who have pleurisy breathe in or cough, the inflammation causes pain, which is a result of friction from the inflamed pleura. The pain is a sharp, stabbing pain that begins suddenly. There are a number of different causes of pleurisy.
* inflammation (in-fla-MAY-shun) is the body's response to infection or irritation,
* membrane (MEM-brayn) is a thin layer of tissue that covers a surface, lines a cavity, or divides a space or organ.
* pneumonia (noo-MO-nee-a) is an inflammation of the lungs, usually caused by bacteria (bak-TEER-ee-a), viruses (W-rus-ez), or chemical irritants.
What Are the Symptoms of Pleurisy?
A sharp, knifelike pain when breathing in or coughing is the primary symptom of pleurisy. People who have pleurisy tend to breathe more frequently with smaller breaths to avoid pain. Ultimately, these small breaths can lead to pneumonia * .
What Causes Pleurisy?
Pleurisy may result from a number of causes. It can develop from infections, such as pneumonia. It also can be a result of injury from an accident or chest surgery. Sometimes, pleurisy is a complication of another disease, like lung cancer * or rheumatoid arthritis * . Another cause of pleurisy is damage to the pleura from toxic substances such as asbestos. The result in all of these cases is inflammation of the pleura that causes pain when a person coughs or breathes.
History and Literature
In the play The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, Laura tells her mother how a boy in her high school called her "Blue Roses." "Why did he call you such a name as that?" asks her mother, Amanda.
Laura explains that when she came back to school after she had an attack of "pleurosis," the young man, Jim, asked her what had been the matter with her. She told him she had had pleurosis, and he mistook the word for "blue roses." Thereafter, whenever Jim saw Laura, he would greet her with, "Hello, Blue Roses!"
Unfortunately, it is easier to contract pleurisy than it is to find blue roses. In the play, though, Laura does recover from her pleurosis. Her problems are of a different nature. The title of the play refers to Laura's collection of glass animals.
* cancer is any tumorous (TOO-morus) condition the natural (untreated) course of which is often fatal.
* rheumatoid arthritis (ROO-ma-toid ar-THRI-tis) is a chronic (KRON-ik) autoimmune disease characterized by pain, swelling, stiffness, and deformation of the joints.
How Is Pleurisy Diagnosed and Treated?
Physicians may diagnose pleurisy when they hear a "friction rub" when the patient breathes deeply. Doctors can use several different laboratory tests to help diagnose the condition, one of which requires taking fluid out of the chest for analysis. Medicines can be given to help with the pain and inflammation. However, the underlying cause of pleurisy, such as bacterial pneumonia or tuberculosis (too-ber-ku-LO-sis), must be treated.