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What is the Pleura?

By Harriette Halepis
Updated May 17, 2024
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The pleural cavity is the cavity that surrounds human lungs. It is made up of two membranes that are separated by fluid called pleurae. These membranes cover the entire lung area,separated into two parts: right and left. The purpose of this cavity is to protect the lungs while also cushioning them. While this membrane is extremely thin, it is a vital part of the lung area.

Pleurae exists in order to allow the two membranes to slide against each other without friction. The surface of these membranes consist of an area made up of shiny flat cells called the mesothelium. Only with the help of the pleurae can the pleural cavity function properly. When this fluid becomes infected or compromised, the results are often serious. In fact, this type of infection must be treated right away in order to avoid further complications.

This portion of the lung area is extremely sensitive to pain and to bacteria. Frequently, the pleural cavity becomes infected with bacteria, which may cause inflammation. When a large amount of bacterial fluids collect between the pleural membranes, the result can be a serious infection known as pleurisy. Dry pleurisy occurs when no fluid is formed, but the area is still infected. Pain is often caused when the two membranes that make up the pleural cavity rub together. This can be caused by a number of conditions, including pneumonia, lung infections, and even kidney problems.

Detecting any kind of cavity infection can only be done by the trained eyes of a medical doctor. While people that have cavity infections will often complain of chest pain, there is no way to detect an infection without medical attention. Therefore, people who have chest pains should always seek medical attention right away. In some cases, a lung cavity infection can be an indication of a heart problem, which makes any pain in this area even more important. In addition to the infections and diseases listed above, cancer of the pleura is also possible.

Scientists are continuously studying ways to cure various infections and cancers that may affect this area. Since the area itself is extremely sensitive, a lot of infection cures come with a good amount of risk attached to them. However, new techniques are being developed every day in order to make treating this area easier. While most people never think about the membranes that surround their lungs, it would be much harder to breathe if the pleura didn't exist.

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Discussion Comments

By wavy58 — On Jun 21, 2011

My grandad developed pleural mesothelioma. It is mesothelioma’s most common form.

Because he worked around asbestos most of his life, the asbestos entered into his lungs when he breathed. The mesothelioma developed because of this. It started attacking the pleural membrane, and he had extreme difficulty breathing.

He got bad chest pains as well. This scared him, and he visited a doctor for a chest x-ray. Unfortunately, the pleural mesothelioma had progressed so far that it could not be treated.

By frosted — On Jun 21, 2011

I was diagnosed with dry pleurisy (also called dry pleuritis) when I was a teenager. It is very painful and makes it very uncomfortable to breathe.

Every time I took even a small breath there were sharp, stabbing pains. It really scared me. I was sure I was having a heart attack, except that the worst pain was on my right side.

Thank goodness I recovered with antibiotic treatment and have not had it again. I have heard of people that once they have it pleurisy the seem to be susceptible to getting it again.

By jonpurdin — On Jun 21, 2011

One of our sons had pleurisy. It was after his appendix ruptured when he was only eight years old. We are so blessed that he survived.

After his surgery he developed a cough and was short of breath. Then he developed these stabbing pains in his chest and would cry out as he took a breath.

When we took him to the doctor they had to run several tests before they discovered it was pleurisy. He seemed to feel better when he was kept warm.

They prescribed antibiotics and ibuprofen for him. It was a couple of weeks before he could breathe comfortably. Bed rest was also an important part of his recovery from both the surgery and the pleurisy.

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