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Pleural effusion

Pleural effusion, which many people refer to as 'fluid on the lung', can cause chest pain when you breath in, shortness of breath, rapid breathing and coughing. Sometimes you can have pleural effusion with no symptoms at all.

The pleural cavity is a thin space between two layers of membrane (pleura) around the lungs. It normally contains a small amount of fluid that helps the membrane slide over each other when breathing in and out. In cases of pleural effusion, excess fluid accumulates in the pleural cavity.

Pleural effusions are generally a sign of an underlying disease. Common diseases associated with pleural effusions are:

  • Malignant disease, such as cancer
  • Congestive heart failure (the heart is no longer able to pump enough blood to the rest of your body)
  • Pneumonia (infection of the lungs)
  • Empyema (pus collects in the pleural cavity)
  • Tuberculosis (contagious, bacterial infection of the lungs, or sometimes other parts of the body)
  • Pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in an artery of the lung)
  • Cirrhosis (accumulation of scar tissue in the liver)
Reviewed by

Associate Professor Steven Mutsaers, Centre for Asthma, Allergy and Respiratory Research, University of Western Australia, WA


Pneumococcal pneumonia: Are you at risk?

Pneumonia due to pneumococcal infection can be a serious disease, especially for people with chronic lung disease (chronic asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema).

Having a chronic lung disease, such as chronic asthma or COPD, makes it harder for your body to clear respiratory infections, like pneumococcal pneumonia.

The National Immunisation Guidelines recommend vaccination against pneumococcal disease if you have chronic lung disease.

Lungs and pneumococcal pneumonia infection

Pneumococcal pneumonia is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria can be found in the upper respiratory tract (nose, throat and windpipe) of healthy people; and can be spread between people through infected droplets in the air and by touching an infected person.

Some people, including those with certain underlying conditions such as chronic asthma, COPD or emphysema are at a higher risk of contracting pneumococcal disease than the rest of the population. In adults, pneumococcal bacteria most commonly cause pneumococcal pneumonia.

Pneumococcal pneumonia is a lung infection and symptoms can include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.

In addition to pneumonia, pneumococcal bacteria can cause a range of diseases including meningitis (infection of the membranes that enclose the brain and spinal cord), septicaemia/bacteraemia (blood system infection) and middle ear and sinus infections.

Reducing your risk of pneumococcal pneumonia

Below are some ways to help reduce your risk of pneumococcal pneumonia, including healthy lifestyle measures:

  • Pneumococcal pneumonia vaccination. National Immunisation Guidelines recommend pneumococcal pneumonia vaccination for people with chronic lung disease (this includes people with chronic asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema).
  • A healthy diet and exercise. Eating a healthy diet and getting the right amount of exercise may help you fight off infection, including from pneumococcal bacteria.
  • Reducing alcohol intake. Reducing your alcohol intake may help reduce your risk of pneumococcal pneumonia infection, especially if you consume a lot of alcohol on a regular basis.
  • Stopping smoking. If you currently smoke, stopping smoking will help reduce your risk of pneumococcal pneumonia infection.

The above advice is general advice only. Only your doctor can advise you on what’s right for you and your condition.

To find out more about pneumococcal pneumonia, click here to complete an “Are you at risk?” Checklist.

Additional information can also be found here.

Speak to your doctor today about ways to reduce your risk of pneumococcal pneumonia, including vaccination.

This article was provided by CSL Biotherapies Pty Ltd, 45 Poplar Road PARKVILLE, 3052.

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