Pleuritic pain is a sharp stabbing pain in the chest. It can occur in anyone at any age but it is more common in older adults who have underlying lung problems, or who smoke heavily. One of the most common causes is a viral infection or a bacterial infection, which take hold more successfully because of the damage already in the lungs.
Knowing the symptoms of pleuritic pain and understanding the possible causes can help you recognise the problem early and distinguish it from other sorts of chest pain. In general, if you have severe chest pain of any sort, or troublesome chest pain that lasts more than a week, you should see your GP urgently.
This article on pleuritic pain is written by Kathryn Senior, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.
What is pleuritic pain?
The membranes around the lungs are called the pleura. These come in two layers, one of which covers the lungs, the other that lines the chest cavity. The two membranes are well lubricated to allow them to move relative to one another as you breathe in and out. Pleuritic pain occurs when these membranes become inflamed, damaged or dry, and can no longer move smoothly. Every time you breathe in and out, the pleura scrape together rather than sliding, and this is very painful.
Pleuritic pain is often described as a sharp or stabbing pain and is often felt most intensely at a specific site. It is often felt only on one side and is made worse by coughing or sneezing. It can also be irritated by deep breathing and this may lead you to take only shallow breaths to avoid the pain. This may bring temporary relief but it can lead to further complications. You will usually have other symptoms associated with your pleuritic pain, and these will help your doctor to diagnose the cause.