Pleurodynia is a painful medical condition that can result from coxsackievirus B (CVB) infection. When CVB enters the lungs or gastrointestinal tract, it quickly migrates to the bloodstream and targets striated muscle tissue in the chest. Sudden, severe chest pains and breathing difficulties can result. The virus might also embed in lung tissue and cardiac muscle, which can cause potentially life-threatening complications. No current antiviral medication has been found effective at treating pleurodynia, so patients typically receive anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve symptoms while the virus runs its one- to two-week course.
CVB is a widespread virus, but most people have strong enough immune systems to prevent the pathogen from causing serious complications such as pleurodynia. Young children and people with immunodeficiency disorders are at the highest risk of developing pleurodynia. Infection is most common in tropical regions and areas with hot, humid summer seasons. A person can acquire an infection by inhaling airborne pathogens or ingesting contaminated food or drink. The virus is highly contagious, and epidemics are possible if infected patients are not quarantined and treated right away.
The first symptoms of CVB infection are usually fever, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. If the lungs are affected, a person may develop a dry cough and a sore throat. Once CVB reaches muscle tissue along the ribcage, it causes contractions and inflammation that result in immediate twinges of almost unbearable pain. Episodes generally last for less than one minute, but they can occur in succession several times an hour. Severe episodes can cause breathing difficulties, headaches, and possibly loss of consciousness.
Emergency room doctors can diagnose pleurodynia by testing blood, stool, and mucus samples for the presence of CVB. Chest x-rays are usually administered as well to make sure that chest pains are not related to other causes. Imaging tests can also reveal any serious damage to the lungs, cardiac muscle, or skeletal muscle.
Since CVB is contagious, patients are usually quarantined in sterile rooms after diagnoses are confirmed. Doctors can administer intravenous or oral anti-inflammatory medications, such as naproxen and ibuprofen, to reduce muscle tissue inflammation and relieve acute pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs do not eradicate the virus, but they can significantly lessen the severity and frequency of gripping muscle attacks. Patients are instructed to drink plenty of fluids and rest for several days to give their bodies time to heal. Most cases of pleurodynia resolve in about one week without causing lasting health problems.