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Viral Pleuritis


Richard W. Light

, MD, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Last full review/revision Jul 2019| Content last modified Jul 2019

Viral pleuritis is a viral infection of the pleura (the thin, transparent, two-layered membrane that covers the lungs), which typically causes chest pain when breathing or coughing.

(See also Overview of Pleural and Mediastinal Disorders.)

Viral pleuritis is most commonly caused by infection with coxsackie B virus. Occasionally, an echovirus causes a rare condition known as epidemic pleurodynia (Bornholm disease). It occurs in the late summer and affects adolescents and young adults.

Chest pain is the primary symptom of viral pleuritis. The pain is usually worse when breathing in or coughing and is often sharp. Epidemic pleurodynia also causes fever and chest muscle spasms.

Chest x-ray is usually done.

Viral pleuritis resolves on its own after a few days or more. Analgesics can help relieve the pain.

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