What Is Pleural Effusion and How to Detect It

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As a parent, it worries me much when any of my family members especially the children get sick. I am always on the watch for any signs of sickness or disease affecting them. But as much as I do my best to protect them, sicknesses still affect my family from time to time.

Recently, I visited a friend who suffered from pneumonia. She was hospitalized because of a complication called pleural effusion which is characterized by fluid in lungs. By itself, pleural effusion is not a serious condition. But in her case, she has to be treated to avoid other serious health problems.

Pneumonia is just one of the illnesses that can have pleural effusion as its side effect. Other causes of pleural effusion include congenital heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver, renal disease, pulmonary embolism, cancer and autoimmune diseases such as lupus. In some instances, the major condition of the patient is discovered after a diagnosis on pleural effusion. And since many serious health problems are attached to this condition, it would be good to understand more about pleural effusion.

More often, pleural effusions do not present any symptoms unless the fluid buildup is sever and if there are inflammations involved. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, chest pain, cough and fever aside from the symptoms of the underlying medical condition causing it. A doctor may think that a patient has pleural effusion by observing the symptoms manifested and through physical examination. A doctor will also normally conduct a physical examination by tapping the chest and listening through a stethoscope. But before making a diagnosis, doctors will also normally require you to undergo imaging tests such as chest x-ray, CT scan or ultrasound.

Once diagnosed with pleural effusion, a fluid sample of the patient is normally taken for testing to determine the seriousness of the condition. To do it, a doctor will insert a catheter and a needle in between the ribs to the pleural space. During this process, a small amount of fluid is obtained for testing while the rest of the fluid can also be simultaneously removed to alleviate pain and other symptoms.

If the pleural effusion has no infection or inflammation, it is least likely to cause permanent or serious lung problems. However, if the pleural effusion has complications or has inflammation or infection, it may constrict the ring surrounding the lungs and can permanently impair normal breathing. Treatment procedures may include taking antibiotics and natural antihistamine to first treat the medical condition causing it. If the pleural effusion is infected, there might be a need for a drainage procedure to remove the fluid. Other treatment procedures include pleurodesis which involves inserting a doxycycline or talc to the pleural space to prevent the recurrence of pleural effusion. Other procedures are pleural drain and pleural decortication.

Pleural effusion can affect anybody. It may or may not be a serious condition you should worry about. But it is always best to be proactive and to see your doctor if you experience any of its symptoms. My friend is glad that her pleural effusion was treated immediately by doctors or her condition could have worsened.