The pain arising due to inflammation of pleura is called pleuritic chest pain. Pleura is a medical name of the membrane surrounding lungs. It is made up of two layers; the inner membrane acts as a protective layer while the outer layer surrounds the chest cavity. When these two layers of pleura rub against each other instead of gliding, it causes pleuritic chest pain.
Respiratory diseases or injury to pleura and lungs is the main reason for pleuritic pain. It is sharp and stabbing pain. Pain gets exacerbated when a person coughs or breathes deeply. Below are given the causes of pleuritic pain.
Causes of Pleuritic Chest Pain
Normally, between the two layers of pleura, there is thin film of fluid. It keeps the space between two layers well lubricated.This allows the membranes to glide against each other, during breathing. However, due to inflammation and irritation the fluid gets displaced. The membranes rub against one another instead of gliding giving rise to pleuritic pain.
Several reasons are known to cause pleuritic pain. Viral infection is most common reason for this type of pain. However, there are several other factors.
- Pneumonia causes consolidation of lung tissue. Bacteria and virus both can cause pneumonia. It can cause pleuritic pain.
- Pleuritic pain is also associated with tuberculosis.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and sarcoidosis can also give rise to pleural irritation and pain in pleura.
- Chest injuries, rib fracture, can irritate the pleural membrane leading to pleural pain.
- Disorders of contiguous structures: esophageal rupture, liver abscess, diaphragmatic hernia, pancreatitis.
- Lung malignancy, superior vena cava obstruction.
- Reaction to certain drugs used for tuberculosis, cancer, or immune disorder.
- Post radiation therapy.
Common Signs and Symptoms
There is sudden shooting and stabbing chest pain in the region of chest. Pain is always aggravated while breathing, coughing, sneezing, laughing, and yawning. In its milder form, pleuritic pain may imitate like a cramp. There may be associated symptoms such as fever, cough, breathing difficulty of the underlying disease.
Due to pleural pain, the movement of affected side of chest is reduced. While auscultation the physician is able to hear typical friction sound over the affected region. The sound is similar as that of rubbing between papers. The sound disappears when pleural surface separate as a result of collection of more fluid. Many times, pleuritic pain may reappear in the resolving stage.
How to Relieve Pleuritic Pain
- Treating the underlying cause is important to reduce pleuritic pain. If it is viral infection, it may take few days to resolve the pain on its own. If it is bacterial infection physicians recommend antibiotics to treat the cause.
- In case of tuberculosis, patient is prescribed anti tuberculosis medication.
- Anti inflammatory medications are also beneficial at times.
- It is necessary to relieve cough as it is one of the triggering factors for pain. Cough suppressants are given.
- Pleuritic pain is often a common feature in lung cancer. When the pain is unbearable, the doctor seals the space between two sides of pleura with some medication. The procedure is known as Pleurodesis.
- Combination of alternative therapy and main line treatment is beneficial in many cases. Acupuncture is one such alternative method.
- Applying hot compresses also helps to reduce pleuritic pain of short duration.