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Viral Pleuritis

By Richard W. Light, MD, Professor of Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

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Patient Education

Viral pleuritis is a viral infection of the pleurae.

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

The primary symptom of viral pleuritis is pleuritic pain; pleural friction rub may be a sign (see Pleural Effusion : Diagnosis).

Diagnosis is suspected in patients with pleuritic chest pain with or without systemic symptoms of viral infection. Chest x-ray is usually done. Other causes of pleuritic chest pain, such as pulmonary emboli and pneumonia, need to be considered and sometimes ruled out with testing.

Treatment is symptomatic with oral NSAIDs or a short course of oral opioids if needed.