ZocdocAnswersWhat is pleurisy?

Question

What is pleurisy?

My partner has had asthma since he was a kid (he's 32 now), and we just took him to the hospital with trouble breathing. They said he has pleurisy, and we're waiting to hear for certain. Is pleurisy related to asthma, or will the asthma cause complications? How serious is pleurisy if he has it?

Answer

Pleurisy (AKA pleuritis) can have very painful and distressing symptoms. It is caused by inflammation in the pleura, which is a thin layer of connective tissue that line the outside of the lung, and inside of the chest wall. Symptoms typically are sharp chest pain that is exacerbated by taking a deep breath. It can be so severe that patient's will avoid deep breaths and coughing even if they get the urge. Pleurisy is actually unrelated to asthma. Asthma is caused by constriction of the bronchioles that deliver air to the lung tissue. While they both have shortness of breath as a symptom, patients with asthma will be short of breath because they can't get air in whereas patients with pleurisy will be short of breath because they have fear of breathing normally. There is no perfect way to diagnose pleurisy except by the patient giving a history of the symptoms and ruling out other causes of chest pain such as a heart attack. The inflammation that causes pleurisy can be secondary to infections, autoimmune diseases, or can occur for reasons we aren't sure. Thus, the seriousness of pleurisy depends entirely on the cause. I would obtain all the records from you hospital visit and schedule an appointment with your partner's primary care physician as soon as possible. He or she can be begin a workup if the symptoms warrant further investigation. Good luck.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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