Pleurisy, also called pluritis, is typically not a life-threatening disease, but is, instead, a complication of other, more dangerous chest conditions. It often develops alongside pneumonia, tuberculosis, rheumatic diseases, chest trauma, certain cancers and asbestos-related disease.

What is pleurisy?

Pleurisy is an inflammation of the pleura—the thin membrane that both encloses the lungs and lines the chest cavity. Under normal conditions, the double-layered pleura protects and lubricates the surface of the lungs as they inflate and deflate with every breath. In between the two layers is a thin, fluid-filled gap that allows the layers of pleura to gently slide past one another. In the case of pleurisy, the layers become inflamed and their rough surfaces rub painfully against each other with every breath.


Pleurisy is often caused by respiratory illnesses, viral and bacterial infections and rheumatic conditions.


Common symptoms are those associated with respiratory illness such as cough, fever and malaise. Localized chest pain may occur in the form of pain with each breath and pain worsened by coughing or deep breathing.


Treatment is typically associated with the underlying disease (e.g. tuberculosis, pneumonia). Bacterial infections may be treated with antibiotics. Pleural fluid may be removed by thoracentesis. The pain of pleurisy can often be controlled with over-the-counter pain medications such as acetominophen or ibuprofen.