During normal breathing, lungs easily and rhythmically expand and contract within the chest. To facilitate this movement and lubricate moving parts, the lungs are enveloped in a moist, smooth, two-layer membrane (pleura pleura, pleura). The outer layer of the membrane covers of the inner side of the chest; between these two layers is a virtually imperceptible space (pleural space) which allows the layers to slide easily over each other. If any of the pleura is inflammed and rough, the sliding of hte layers is disturbed, and you have a pleurisy.
Pleurisy is actually a symptom of an underlying disease rather than the disease itself. Inflammation of the pleura may occur as a complication of some lung infections or chest, for example, pneumonia or tuberculosis; inflammation may be due to mild pneumothorax or chest injuries. Pleurisy sometimes causes new complications due to draining of fluid in the pleural space, resulting in a condition called pleural effusion. However, pleurisy is not the only disease that can lead to pleural effusion; effusion can cause diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, liver disease kidney disease or cardiac decompensation. Even cancer that has metastasized from lung, breast or ovarian cancer can cause pleural effusion.
If you have pleurisy, you will feel pain during deep breathing or coughing, and chest pain (on one side, not in the middle) can be very strong. Such pain may be accompanied by the other symptoms of the underlying disease. The pain will go away if pleural effusion occurs due to pleurisy, because the liquid prevents friction between the layers; however, when a lot of liquid amass, you may run out of breath.
Thanks to antibiotics, pleurisy and pleural effusion, which are caused by infections, are very rare. One in 1000 people paying annually (on average) to the doctor because of one or both disease, and mortality is very rare now. Pleurisy is four times more common than pleural effusion.
In most cases, the danger lies in the basic disease. Strong pleural effusion can squeeze the lungs and cause shortness of breath. Effusion can cause empyema.
What to do?
Contact your doctor if your breathing is painful, if you have a high temperature, and if you feel that you lose your breath. As the doctor inquired about the symptoms and early disease, he will listen to your chest with a stethoscope and percuss them, paying attention to the distinctive sound of the inflamed pleura and pleural effusion. And X-ray of the lungs may be necessary. If you have pleural effusion, one way of diagnosing the causes is to review the composition of the fluid; therefore, a sample of fluid is taken (for microscopic examination) from the pleural space using a needle and syringe.
Since pleurisy and pleural effusion are the symptoms of the underlying disease, the only sure way is to treat this underlying disease. Meanwhile, a physician will perscribe you an analgesic to relieve the pain in the chest.