What is pleurisy?
Also known as pleuritis, is a condition that occurs when the pleural membranes lining the lungs and the inner aspect of the chest wall becomes inflamed, which causes them to rub against each other with friction during breathing.
Pleurisy makes breathing difficult and painful. It is sometimes associated with pleural effusion, where a large amount of fluid builds up within the pleural cavity making breathing even more difficult.
The double-layered pleural membranes are separated by a small cavity known as the pleural cavity. This cavity contains a small amount of lubricating fluid called the pleural fluid. The function of this is to allow a person to breathe in and out with no pain. As you breathe in and out, the lubricating fluid allows that two pleural membranes to rub against each other with almost no friction.
However, in situations where you develop a viral infection or bacterial pneumonia, the pleural membranes get inflamed and rub against each other with friction causing a very sharp pain.
In some cases, fluid accumulates within the pleural cavity making the lungs impossible to expand to its fullest. Therefore, this makes the person short of breath. This condition is known as pleural effusion. When a person develops pleural effusion, the two pleural membranes get separated by the fluid, and therefore, will no longer rub against each other during respiration. Thus, they will not feel the sharp stabbing pain. Instead, they will begin to have more shortness of breath.
What causes pleurisy?
Pleurisy is the direct result of the inflammation of the pleural membranes. The resultant friction force causes a sharp pain during breathing. The pain reduces when you stop breathing.
The most common cause of pleurisy is following viral infections. Viral infections are not very severe conditions as most people know. They resolve on its own without any treatment at all, but the pain you may feel can be very severe.
Other causes of pleurisy are bacterial pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, tuberculosis, lung tumors, and autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. All these diseases will accompany other symptoms and pleuritic chest pain is only a fraction of the problem. Conditions like pulmonary embolism and lung tumor can be fatal if they are not treated properly.
Is pleurisy fatal?
Although pleurisy is a very painful condition, with proper treatment, it is not a very serious disease. Pleurisy needs to be treated as early as possible or else it could lead to very severe complications like a collapsed lung and difficulty in breathing, which sometimes can be fatal. Pleurisy is a condition that can be fatal if it is left neglected.
Rather than pleurisy alone, the causes that may cause pleurisy can be more serious than the condition itself. For instance, pulmonary embolism or a spreading lung tumor causing pleurisy can be fatal if it is left untreated.
Thus, if you have a very severe sharp, stabbing chest pain, visit your doctor as early as possible before complications arise and the condition becomes fatal.