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Five Questions About Pleurisy to Ask Your Doctor

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The pleura are double-layered membranous sacs that envelop our lungs and demarcates them from the heart, ribs, chest wall and diaphragm. When this sac swells due to infection (viral or bacterial) of the lungs, injury or other medical conditions, then the condition is called pleurisy or pleuritis. The patient experiences chest pain during breathing as the inflamed and swollen pleural layers rub against each other when the chest expands during inhalation. When the sac fills with fluids the condition is called pleural effusion. In this article, we will concern ourselves with details of pleurisy.

To start, you may wish to go over the following five questions with your doctor if you have been diagnosed with pleurisy:

1. What is the cause of my pleurisy?

That depends upon your underlying medical conditions, the results in the diagnostic reports and what your doctor considers the cause after a physical examination. The presence of other medical conditions usually causes pleurisy. These conditions could be:
• Blood clot in lung
• Smoking-affected lungs
• Infectious disease caused by virus, bacteria, fungus, tuberculosis, parasites, or pneumonia
• Gastrointestinal disease
• Radiation therapy
• Reaction to drugs such as methotrexate and penicillin
• Sickle cell disease
• Chemotherapy drugs
• Asbestos
• Cancer such as mesothelioma
• Collagen vascular disease such as lupus
• Trauma from bruised or broken ribs
• Pneumothorax
• Other lung diseases like cystic fibrosis, asbestosis, etc.
• Pulmonary embolism, inflammatory bowel disease
• Familial Mediterranean fever
• Coronary artery bypass grafting
• High blood pressure
• Aortic dissection

2. Besides the chest pain and fever that I have, what other symptoms am I likely to experience in pleurisy?

Typically pleurisy patients have any or a combination of the following symptoms:
• Fever
• Shortness of breath
• Chest pain at the time of inhalation and exhalation
• Dry cough
• Chills
• Coughing and sneezing
• Loss of weight
• Swollen joints

3. Will I need to take any more diagnostic tests for my pleurisy apart from the X-ray and the blood test?

That depends upon your underlying medical conditions, medical history, the results in the diagnostic reports and what your doctor considers the cause after a physical examination. Generally the doctors use a combination of tests to arrive at the presence of a pleural condition as they have done in your case. They include:
• A physical exam to hear the rough and scratchy sounds from the pleural cavity during breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, etc.
• Chest X-ray to show inflammation or fluid in the pleura and causes thereof
• CT scan to see lung abscess or tumors
• Ultrasound to see the fluid fill-up, location, and extent
• Arterial blood gas test to see the level of oxygen and carbon dioxide in blood plasma
• Blood test to check viral infections, pneumonia, etc.
• Pneumo-thoracic examination
• Thoracentesis to obtain the tissue of the pleural cavity
• Thoracoscopy to obtain the tissue of pleura for analysis and to scan the chest internally

4. Is pleurisy contagious?

Pleurisy caused by viral and bacterial infections are contagious. If it has been caused by a heart surgery or a rib fracture or cancer, pleurisy will not be contagious. You must remember that pleurisy is not a disease. It is indeed a symptom of the existence of some medical condition affecting the lungs.

5. How long will I take to recover?

This depends on the root cause of your pleurisy. If it has been caused by viral infections, you may recover in a week or two. If it is bacterial in nature, you could take up to six weeks to clear. Those caused by other reasons like cancers may go on for a very long time, if not indefinitely.


Mamta Singh is a published author of the books Migraines for the Informed Woman (Publisher: Rupa & Co.) and the upcoming Rev Up Your Life! (Publisher: Hay House India). She is also a seasoned business, creative and academic writer. She is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer & sports nutritionist through IFA, Florida USA. Mamta is an NCFE-certified Holistic Health Therapist SAC Dip U.K. She is the lead writer and holds Expert Author status in many well-received health, fitness and nutrition sites. She runs her own popular blogs on migraines in women and holistic health. Mamta holds a double Master's Degree in Commerce and Business. She is a registered practitioner with the UN recognised Art of Living Foundation. Link: http://www.migrainingjenny.wordpress.com and http://www.footstrike.wordpress.com

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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