Pleurisy, also known as pleuritis, is a condition that results from the swelling of the linings of the lungs and chest. The pleural cavity (area between lungs and inner chest wall) is created by two lubricated surfaces called pleura, the inner pleura lining the lungs and the outer lining the chest wall.
A variety of factors can cause the pleura to become inflamed and rub against one another, rather than slide smoothly, as one breathes. This is the cause of the chest pain associated with pleurisy (often called pleuritic pain).
Pleurisy used to be common complication of bacterial infections a long time ago; especially of pneumonia. Since the advent of antibiotics, however, rates have dropped substantially.
It is hard to estimate how many people get pleurisy worldwide because it is often a mild condition that resolves itself without any treatment; without the doctor being told.
Some famous people have had pleurisy, including Hernan Cortes (died of it), Catherine de Medici (died of it), Benjamin Franklin (died of it), Mahatma Gandhi, Elvis Presley (had recurring pleurisy), and Ringo Starr (at age 13), William Wordsworth (died of it), and Judy Garland.
Causes of pleurisy
The pleural cavity is the area between the lungs and inner chest wall.
Pleurisy is a common complication of several different medical conditions, the most pervasive being a viral infection of the lower respiratory system.
Other causes of pleurisy include:
- Bacterial infections such as pneumonia and tuberculosis
- A chest wound that punctured the pleural cavity
- A pleural tumor
- Autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
- Sickle cell anemia
- Pulmonary embolism
- A heart surgery complication
- Lung cancer or lymphoma
- A fungal or parasitic infection
- Familial Mediterranean fever
- Infections can sometimes spread from person to person, but it is rare to “catch” pleurisy.