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Viral Pleuritis

by Richard W. Light, MD

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

Viral pleuritis is most commonly caused by infection with coxsackie B virus. Occasionally, 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.