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Get to Know Your Healthy Lungs

Pleura
   
Diseases Affecting the Pleura

Pleurisy: pain described as dull, achy, sharp, ‘a catch’, and/or burning

Pleural Effusion: fluid in the pleural space

Pleural Plaque and Thickening: usually, fibrous tissue

Pleurodesis: irritant is infused into pleural space to keep lung inflated

Pneumothorax: air or gas in the pleural space

Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma: generally related to asbestosis exposure

   

What Keeps the Lungs Inflated

The lungs are in a cavity that is protected by the ribs. The glue, so to speak, that keeps the lungs inflated is called the “pleura.” The pleura are two thin linings or membranes that protect and cushion the lungs.

One lining covers the lungs. It is called the visceral pleura—the other lining covers the chest wall, it is called the parietal pleura.  

Between these two linings there is a small amount of fluid (pleural fluid) that lubricates the surface of the linings, so the two surfaces glide smoothly over each other. 

It might be helpful to think of the linings as two pieces of glass placed on top of each other, one representing the lung pleural and the other piece being the chest wall pleural. If you set these pieces of glass one on top of the other they can easily be separated. But if you lightly coat the inside glass with water (pleural fluid), the pieces slide easily over each other and it becomes very difficult to separate the pieces of glass. 

Image © peggerrity.com

 

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© 2005 American Association for Respiratory Care

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