Causes

A pleural effusion is a common condition that typically occurs due to infections

A pleural effusion is a common condition that typically occurs due to infections.

When we breathe, we inhale air into the lungs and the ribs move out while the diaphragm moves down. In order for the lung to expand, its lining will need to slide along with the movement of the chest wall. For this to occur, both the ribs and the lungs are covered by a slippery lining known as the pleura. The pleura is a thin membrane lining the lung surface, as well as the inside of the chest walls on the outside of the lungs. Individuals suffering from pleural effusions experience the accumulation of fluid in the space between the pleura layers. In normal conditions, the pleural space only has teaspoons of watery fluid, which allows the lungs smooth movement inside the chest cavity during breathing. The human body produces small amounts of pleural fluid for purposes of lubricating the surfaces of the pleura, the thin tissue lining the chest cavity and surrounding the lungs.

A pleural effusion is a common condition that typically occurs due to infections such as pneumonia or heart failure, in which case the heart stops pumping blood around the body as efficiently as before. The effusion may also develop in the event that cancer cells spread into the pleura thereby causing irritation and the buildup of fluid. There are many medical conditions that may result in pleural effusions. Below are some of the common causes of this condition:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Liver disease (cirrhosis)
  • Pneumonia
  • End-stage renal disease
  • Cancer – Pleural effusions may be a symptom of several types of cancer.
  • Nephritic syndrome
  • Lupus and other autoimmune conditions
  • Pulmonary embolism

The accumulation of excessive fluid may be due to the fact that the body is not able to properly handle fluid (such as with cases of liver and kidney disease, and congestive heart failure). Fluid in a pleural effusion may also occur as a result of inflammation, such as in the case of autoimmune disease, pneumonia and many other conditions. The other less common causes of pleural effusion include:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Bleeding as a result of chest trauma
  • Rare chest and abdominal infections
  • Chylothorax as a result of trauma
  • Asbestos pleural effusion as a result of exposure to asbestos
  • Ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome
  • Meig’s Syndrome as a result of a benign ovarian tumor

Abdominal surgery, radiation therapy and certain medications may also result in the development of pleural effusions. A pleural effusion may occur along with several types of cancer including breast cancer, lung cancer and lymphoma. In certain instances, the fluid itself may be malignant (cancerous), or may occur as a direct consequence of chemotherapy. The types of cancer that are likely to result in a pleural effusion are:

  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Mesothelioma (Cancer of the pleura)
  • Lymphomas