Also known as pleurisy, pleuritic pain is best described as an infection somewhere in the lower respiratory area. The infection may be caused by some form of bacteria or virus and in rare cases, pleurisy may become contagious if the condition becomes more severe. The pain usually originates in the small space between the chest wall and the lungs, which is called the pleural cavity. The infection causes inflammation of the thin layers of tissue which cover the chest wall and lungs to rub together and this causes the pleuritic pain which a lot of people are familiar with.
Some additional causes of pleuritic chest pain include a hole in the lung. This causes air to leak into the pleural cavity and irritate the aforementioned thin layers of tissue. Further pleuritic pain causes may also include a pre-existing illness, such as rheumatoid arthritis, pancreatitis or even the result of a complication during a heart operation. Pleuritic pain may also be caused by tuberculosis, though this condition is extremely rare in the developed world.
How do you know if you have pleuritic chest pain differential as opposed to something more harmless like indigestion? Some of the first symptoms you will experience include severe difficulty in breathing which usually comes on suddenly without warning. Finding it difficult to breathe is usually accompanied by chest pain which is made worse every time you take a breath. Sometimes the pain is only on one side of the chest and it can extend to the shoulder blades or lower abdomen too. You may also have symptoms that are more representative of a fever if your pleurisy is caused by a viral infection. These include headaches, high fever, muscle aches and nausea.
If the pleuritic pain is caused by something else other than a fever, then you may have a dry cough to go with the chest pain. As far as pleuritic pain treatment is concerned, temporary relief may be had by pressing down on the area where you feel pain, but it is highly recommended that you seek professional treatment from a doctor as soon as possible. The person concerned should admit themselves to the emergency department of a hospital where a doctor can rule out potentially life threatening complications. It has been reported that between 5% and 21% of people with pleuritic pain may also have a much more serious pulmonary embolism present.
Once the presence of a potentially life threatening illness has been eliminated, the material needs to be removed from the pleural space so that the lung does not collapse. In most cases a hollow needle is inserted between the ribs in the back of the chest, penetrating into the chest wall. A syringe is then attached to the needle and a large amount of fluid is expelled from the cavity, sometimes as much as 1.5 liters at a time. Once the fluid has been removed any residual pleuritic pain can be managed with a simple dose of paracetamol or cough syrup.