Pleurisy is a treatable condition with a very good prognosis. The aims in the management of pleurisy are to relieve the symptoms and treat the underlying cause of pleurisy.
Relieving the Symptoms
Pleurisy is the inflammation of the pleural membranes that line your lungs and the inner chest wall. The inflamed membranes rub against each other with friction - like sandpaper - when you breath, causing a sharp stabbing pain. The pain is aggravated as the lungs expand, causing the two membranes to rub against each other. Because of this pain, patients of pleurisy tend to take rapid and shallow breaths to minimize the pain as much as possible.
Your doctor may prescribe simple analgesics such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve this pleuritic chest pain. If the pain is unresponsive to NSAIDS, then your doctor may prescribe you another pain killer, such as Paracetamol or codeine.
A Useful Tip – Lying down on the side of the pain will help reduce it. This is because when you lie down on the side of the pain, it limits the expansion of your chest wall and by extension the rubbing of the pleural membranes.
Treating the Underlying Cause
Pleurisy can be caused by several diseases; some of them include viral or bacterial infection, pneumonia, tuberculosis, rib fractures or lung tumors. Treating the underlying causes will eventually cure pleurisy.
If you have a viral infection, you do not need any treatment, as the virus will pass through your body in a few days. If you have a bacterial infection or pneumonia, your doctor will prescribe you antibiotics to kill all the bacterial organisms in your body. The type of antibiotics given will depend on the severity of our disease. For instance, if you have a severe pneumonia, then IV antibiotics will be given to bring down the infection as soon as possible.
If you have been diagnosed with tuberculosis, you will have to take a series of medications for a total of 6 months.
Sometimes, you may suddenly notice a reduction in pain, without treatment, but this could be a sign that your condition has worsened. This is because with untreated pleurisy, fluid may continue to build up in your pleural cavity. If there is a large accumulation of fluid in the pleural space, it will create a gap between two pleural membranes, preventing them from rubbing against each other and therefore reducing the pain you feel. In conditions like this, your doctor will treat the condition that is responsible for the fluid buildup in your pleural cavity.
If this fluid gets infected, your doctor may decide to drain this fluid out by a process called as thoracentesis. Thoracentesis will also be done if your symptoms do not clear up despite treatment for pleurisy. In these cases, a large amount of fluid has to be drained out and therefore will require admission to the hospital.