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Pleurisy Center

Pleurisy Causes and Risk Factors

What causes pleurisy?
Many different conditions can cause pleural problems. Viral infection is the most common cause of pleurisy. Viral and bacterial infections like pneumonia that inflame the lungs can cause the swelling, or inflammation, of the pleura and pleurisy. Furthermore, the most common cause of pleural effusion, or fluid in the pleural space, is congestive heart failure. However, pleurisy can also occur spontaneously. Pleurisy may also occur during cases of:

  • asbestos-related disease
  • autoimmune diseases (lupus)
  • bacterial infection
  • cancer
  • chest trauma
  • drug reactions
  • heart failure
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • liver and kidney disease (chronic)
  • pancreatitis
  • pulmonary embolus
  • rheumatic diseases
  • sickle cell disease
  • systemic lupus
  • viral infection

What causes other pleura disorders?

Hemothorax - The most common cause of hemothorax, or blood in the pleural space, is an injury to the chest. Cancer of the lung or pleura and chest or heart surgery also may lead to a hemothorax. Hemothorax also can be a complication of tuberculosis.

Pneumothorax - A pneumothorax, or air in the pleural space, can appear after spontaneous rupture of small lung cysts or can be caused by lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), tuberculosis, and acute lung injury. Surgery or a wound or injury to the chest also may lead to a pneumothorax.

Risk factors
A variety of factors can cause the pleura to become inflamed and rub against one another, rather than slide smoothly, as one breathes. Because pleurisy results from one or more of many conditions, anyone is at risk of contracting pleurisy. But in generally, medical history is the biggest predictor of who is most likely to be diagnosed with pleurisy.

Medical history - People in ill health or who have had a chest injury or heart surgery have higher chances of getting pleurisy. Additionally, people diagnosed with an underlying lung condition, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, lung abscesses, or influenza or who have infection (viral or bacterial), injury, or tumors are more likely to develop pleurisy than those who don’t.

It's important to diagnose and treat symptoms of pleurisy when you first notice them. This will help prevent the symptoms from worsening and causing complications. To learn more about how to recognize symptoms of pleurisy, check out the next section on symptoms of pleurisy now.

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