Fluid around the lung (pleural effusion) is a potentially dangerous condition that can masquerade as something less worrisome. What may seem like chest pain or coughing due to a bad cold could actually have serious health ramifications. It’s not that rare, either. More than 1.5 million people are diagnosed with pleural effusion in the United States each year.
Pleural effusion occurs when fluid builds up in the space between the lung and the chest wall. This can happen for many different reasons, including pneumonia or complications from heart, liver, or kidney disease. Another reason could be as a side effect from cancer. “One of the most common reasons pleural effusion develops is due to congestive heart failure,” says Jonathan Puchalski, MD, a pulmonologist at Yale Medicine.