Pleurisy is the inflammation of the pleural membranes that line your lungs and the inside of the chest wall. It is a very painful condition that is often exacerbated by deep inspiration. Most patients with pleurisy present a sharp, stabbing-like pain over one side of the chest that aggravates while breathing in and out. As you breathe in and out, the pleural membranes tend to rub against each other with friction causing a severe pain.
The treatment of pleurisy usually involves reducing the pain as well as treating the underlying cause. If pleurisy is treated during the early stages of the disease, then it can be cured completely with no permanent damage to the lungs.
Treatment to reduce the pain
The pain caused by pleurisy can be easily reduced with some over-the-counter pain medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The commonest drug used is ibuprofen. However, keep in mind that NSAIDs can cause severe side effects such as stomach ulcers, bleeding, and allergic reactions.
If NSAIDs are not suitable for you or appears to be ineffective, then other painkillers such as paracetamol and codeine can be used. Codeine can make you feel drowsy, light-headed dizzy, and sleepy. Therefore, do not take these painkillers before driving a vehicle. Speak with your health care provider before you take any medications.
Believe it or not, one trick that you can do to reduce pleuritic chest pain is by lying down on the side of the pain. This limits the expansion of the chest wall on that side, and therefore, the pain you experience will be less.
Treating the underlying cause
The exact cause of pleurisy is not always known, but several reasons can lead to its development. Some of these causes include viral, bacterial, or fungal infections, as well as autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, certain drugs, and lung cancer. Depending on the underlying cause of pleurisy, the treatment plan will differ.
If pleurisy is due to a bacterial infection, then your health care provider will prescribe you some broad-spectrum antibiotics to get rid of the bacterial infection. The route and the duration of your antibiotic course will depend on the severity of the disease. If your condition seems to be very serious, then antibiotics may be given via an injection, if not, it will be given orally. It is common to use a combination of different antibiotics in the treatment, so that a wide area of the possible organisms is covered, and the infection can be resolved quickly.
If your pleurisy is due to an underlying viral infection, then you may not need any medications as it will resolve on its own within a few days’ time. If pleurisy is a result of a tumor that is growing in your lungs, then your health care provider will start on anti-cancer drugs. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy will be used to reduce the size of the tumor.