About Pleural Disease

The pleura is a set of thin membranes covering the lungs and lining the chest cavity that protects and cushions the lungs. Types of pleural disease include:

  • Pneumothorax: a collection of air or gas in the space surrounding the lungs
  • Pleural effusion: fluid surrounding the lungs
  • Pleurisy: inflammation of the pleura that causes sharp chest pain
  • Mesothelioma

Pleurisy is aggravated by breathing or coughing. At times, pleurisy is associated with fluid in the chest cavity. Pleurisy may result from a wide variety of conditions, including acute viral or bacterial infection of the lung, damage from blood clots, tumors on the surface of the lungs, or even rib fractures.

A pleural effusion is an abnormal collection of fluid in the pleural space. Two types of pleural effusions can develop:

  • Transudative effusions are usually caused by a cardiac condition, liver disease or kidney failure. The pleura itself is structurally normal. Congestive heart failure is the most common type of transudative effusion.
  • Exudative effusions form as a result of a disease in the lung that causes irritation of the adjacent pleura or a problem that originates within the pleura itself. Cancer, tuberculosis, drug reactions, lung infections, asbestosis, and sarcoidosis are some of the diseases that can cause exudative pleural effusions.