Pleurisy is a condition in which the pleura, which is the double-layered covering of the lungs, becomes inflamed. The most common symptom of pleurisy is a sharp chest pain that feels worse with breathing.
Read more about the symptoms of pleurisy.
What causes pleurisy?
Pleurisy can have several causes, which can range from mild to life-threatening. They include:
Read more about the causes of pleurisy.
When to see your GP
You should visit your GP if you have chest pain that does not improve or gets worse after around five to seven days.
If your chest pain is accompanied by a high temperature, coughing up phlegm or blood, or breathing difficulties, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Treatment for pleurisy will depend on the underlying cause of the condition. For example, pleurisy that is caused by a viral infection will often resolve without needing treatment.
However, pleurisy caused by a bacterial infection will usually need to be treated with antibiotics, and people who are frail or already in poor health may be admitted to hospital.
Read more about treating pleurisy.
In some cases of pleurisy, the pleura can become filled with fluid. If this happens, it may be necessary to drain the fluid out of the pleura to prevent breathing difficulties.
Read more about the complications of pleurisy.
Who is affected?
In England, each year there is an average of 2,000 hospital admissions as a result of pleurisy. However, the total number of pleurisy cases is likely to be significantly higher as people with pleurisy often do not seek treatment.
Pleurisy can affect people of all ages, but older people who are 65 years of age or over are most at risk because they are more vulnerable to developing a chest infection.
The outlook for pleurisy can vary significantly depending on the underlying cause of the condition. For example, the outlook for viral pleurisy is usually good and most people will make a full recovery.
However, the outlook for bacterial pleurisy can be mixed because people with this form of pleurisy are more likely to develop complications that could cause permanent lung damage.