Pleurisy occurs when the membranes surrounding the lungs become inflamed. Patients may develop pleurisy after a viral or bacterial infection or after surgery or trauma. Symptoms, which include a cough, fever, shortness of breath and chest pain, can range from mild to severe. Fluid or other foreign particles enter the membranes, aggravating them and leading to inflammation. A doctor will let you know if your pleurisy caused your symptoms, and can help you to determine the best course of action for treatment.
When the pleural fluid itself is infected, a physician may prescribe a short course of antibiotics or a much longer course for more serious infections. Antibiotics can have serious side effects and can reduce your body’s ability to defend itself against future infections if overused, so your doctor will typically prescribe the lowest effective dosage.
One of the best treatments for pleurisy is rest, which allows your body time to heal itself. Rest also keeps you from taking the deep or rapid breaths that cause the chest pain associated with the condition. The more energy you exert, the more work your lungs and the membranes surrounding them need to do. Avoid any strenuous activities that would leave you out of breath or require your lungs to work harder.
You can purchase many anti-inflammatory and pain relief drugs over the counter. Non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs can relieve the pain caused by your symptoms. Your doctor recommends you rest and take NSAIDs for a few days to get relief from your pleurisy symptoms. If your pleurisy keeps you awake at night, look for NSAIDs that contain sleep aids to help you get through the night more comfortably. These medications should reduce pain and allow you to rest more easily.
It may seem counterintuitive, but taking deep breaths and coughing can help patients with pleurisy. Patients who do not do these things may even develop a more serious condition, like pneumonia. Coughing and breathing deeply allow patients to clear mucus from their throats. Of course, these actions can be painful due to the inflammation of the membrane. Relieving pain and inflammation using over-the-counter NSAIDs or other prescription medications can make employing this technique easier. If you are still having trouble breathing without pain after several days, you should see your physician.
Many patients use cough suppressant during pleurisy, even though it can slow down recovery. If your cough is keeping you from getting enough rest at night, take a cough suppressant that lasts no more than a few hours. During the hours you are awake, you should instead use the techniques of coughing and breathing deeply to try to clear out mucus. This balance should allow you relief from your cough throughout the night without inhibiting your recovery. Don’t use cough suppressants during the day unless your doctor recommends it or your pain is very severe.
Bronchodilators are drugs that are given to patients via an inhaler or breathing treatment. Although they are most commonly prescribed for people with asthma or other respiratory issues, your doctor may recommend that you use one to help with pleurisy. Bronchodilators allow your lungs to expand fully, increasing airflow to the lungs. Breathing in enough air is very important for proper brain and cardiovascular function, so if you are struggling to breathe due to your pleurisy, your physician may decide that an inhaler or in-office breathing treatment is right for you.
Draining Chest Fluid
In severe cases of pleurisy, the fluid in the chest may not resolve on its own. Sometimes, pus, mucus, or other fluids build up in the chest and cannot be coughed up. In these instances, a doctor may drain the fluid using a tube. Patients typically need to stay in the hospital for this procedure, which involves inserting a tube into the chest. Usually, patients remain hospitalized until all of the fluid is drained. In most cases, this treatment is not needed, but your doctor will determine if you need it. Cases of pleurisy that resolve in this manner are usually given a more severe diagnosis of pleural effusion.
If your pleurisy is causing you pain, your doctor may prescribe stronger pain or cough medication to ease your symptoms. Be very cautious with these medications. Prescription painkillers can be very addictive, and you should not take them unless your pain is too severe to manage with over-the-counter medication. Never self-medicate using old prescriptions from past illnesses or injuries, and always discuss alternative options with your physician before taking prescription pain medications. Usually, NSAIDs can reduce pleurisy pain and inflammation enough to make prescription-strength painkillers unnecessary.
Lay on One Side
Doctors usually recommend that patients lie on the side of their body where they’re experiencing pain. If the left side of your chest is sore, lie on your left side. This applies pressure to the chest and can reduce pain. If you do not want to take medication, this may be a good natural remedy for pleurisy. If you have pain on both sides, try alternating sides, finding a position where you are most comfortable so you can rest and give your chest time to heal.
Anti-Clotting and Antifungal Medications
If blood clots have caused your pleurisy, your doctor may recommend anti-clotting medication. When fungus causes it, a patient may be prescribed antifungal medications. While reducing pain is one of the primary goals of treatment, most doctors also focus on targeting the cause. Have a doctor diagnose your condition properly so you can resolve the condition as quickly as possible without further complications.