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The lungs and chest cavity are covered by thin, moist membranes called the pleura. Inflammation of these membranes or pleurisy may occur when it is irritated, causing chest pain during breathing. There are a number of factors that may cause this condition and pleurisy recovery time may vary, depending on the underlying conditions.
What Is Pleurisy?
Your pleura consist of a double-layer moist membrane that covers your lungs and lines your chest cavity. Inflammation of this membrane is called pleurisy. The pleural membranes have a space between the two layers, which is filled with a thin fluid that helps them glide gently against each other.
When the pleura are inflamed, every breath, sneeze, or cough causes the roughened surfaces to rub against each other, causing pain. In some cases, excess fluid seeps into the pleural space, leading to pleural effusion. Excess fluid accumulation puts pressure against the lungs and reduces their ability to expand, causing shortness of breath. In some patients, infection of the excessive fluid in the pleura also occurs.
How Long Does It Take to Recover from Pleurisy?
Pleurisy recovery time depends on the cause. Pleurisy that is associated with pleurodynia usually comes and goes over a few days, but in rare cases, the chest pain can occur over several weeks. Patients with rheumatic fever or bacterial pneumonia experience pleurisy that typically goes away with antibiotic treatment. However, in patients suffering from connective tissue disease or lung cancer, chest pain may persist for long periods.
What Causes Pleurisy?
Pleurisy may occur inhealthy, young people who have an infection in the lungs caused by bacteria or virus. Pleurisy may last a few days or up to two weeks. In rare cases, the infection may spread, causing pleurisy in other people.
Pleurisy may also be associated with air leaking in the pleural cavity from a punctured lung, a condition called pneumothorax. This may occur after a chest injury involving a broken rib, or it may also be caused by tuberculosis or lung infections, as well as a tumor in your pleura.
Other causes of pleurisy include pulmonary embolism, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, sickle cell crisis, or pancreatitis. In addition, pleurisy may develop as a post-op complication from heart surgery.
Symptoms of Pleurisy
Chest pain is the chief symptom of pleurisy. This often occurs whenever you take deep breaths or cough. Any chest movement can also be accompanied by pain. Some people also experience shoulder pain.
Other symptoms accompanying pleurisy include:
- Bluish discoloration of the skin
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath
How Is Pleurisy Treated?
The treatment for pleurisy depends on the cause. For example, if a bacterial infection is the cause, you will probably need an antibiotic. If a pulmonary embolism is present, you may get medicine to dissolve the clot or to prevent future blood clots. Generally, the treatment of pleurisy can be summarized as follows:
1. Treat the Pain
Chest pain may be treated with painkillers known as NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. If these are unsuitable or ineffective, your doctor may prescribe other painkillers, such as codeine or paracetamol, which may help shorten pleurisy recovery time.
Another way to reduce the pain is to lie down on the side of the chest that hurts.
2. Treat the Cause
Treatment of the underlying cause of pleurisy is important to reducepleurisy recovery time. If the cause is a bacterial infection, then you will need to take antibiotic treatment, which may be in the form of pills or injections, depending on the severity of the disease.
Pleurisy caused by viral infection does not need any medications, since the infection often resolves by itself within a few days.
If your symptoms are severe or if you are in poor health, your doctor may require you to be hospitalized to support your health until your conditionstabilizes.
3. Treat Pleural Effusion
Pleural effusion results when excess fluid accumulates between the two layers of pleural membranes. It can cause progressiveshortness of breath, especially if it is caused by a bacterial infectionorpulmonary embolism.
If your pleural effusion does not clear up with medical treatment, or if your symptoms are worsening, a chest tube will be inserted to drain the fluid from the affected lung. This may be done under local anesthesia using a numbing agent or under general anesthesia, which will make you fall asleep.
If you have a lot of fluid to be drained, you may be advised to stay in the hospital and pleurisy recovery time may take a few days.