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eMed previously Babylon Health


Edited by Dr Claudia Pastides, 25th March 2019

Pleurisy means inflammation of the pleura. The pleura is a layer of tissue that lines the lungs and the chest wall. In between these two layers is a small amount of fluid. The purpose of the pleura and fluid within it is to keep the expansion and shrinking of the lungs, with every breath in and out, as smooth and friction-less as possible.


Inflammation of the pleura typically occurs due to infection (i.e. pneumonia or flu), inflammatory conditions (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis or lupus) and trauma to the lungs (i.e. fracture of a rib). A pulmonary embolus (clot in the lung) or lung cancer can also cause pleurisy.

Typical Symptoms

  • Chest pain
  • Sharp chest pain
  • Chest pain worse on breathing in
  • Shortness of breath can be either due to the chest infection that is responsible for pleurisy or because it is painful taking a deep breath in
  • Cough

Common Treatment

  • Rest
  • Common painkillers
  • Treatment of any identifiable cause

When to speak to a doctor

If you think you might have pleurisy, speak to a GP. To speak to one of our GPs, download the app and create an account today.

If you are struggling to breathe or are experiencing sudden chest pain, call 999.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.