Pneumonitis: What it is, types, symptoms and treatment

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Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is an inflammation of the lungs as a result of allergic reactions which are caused by microorganisms, dust or chemical agents. They usually cause cough, difficulty breathing and fever.

Pneumonitis can be classified depending on its cause, into several types which are:

  1. Chemical pneumonitis: It is caused by inhalation of dust, toxic or contaminated and chemical agents that are used in the production of synthetic rubber and packaging materials.
  2. Infectious pneumonitis: It is caused by microorganisms such as fungi as a result of inhaling mould, bacteria and protozoa.
  3. Lupus pneumonitis: It occurs due to autoimmune diseases but it is a rarer type.
  4. Interstitial pneumonitis: Also known as Hamman-Rich Syndrome, and it is a rare disease that has an unknown cause and it can cause respiratory failure.

Moreover, pneumonitis can also be caused by inhaling air that is contaminated with mouldy particles, dirty air conditioning, sugar cane residues, mouldy cork, barley or mouldy malt, cheese mould, infected wheat bran as well as contaminated coffee beans.

Main symptoms

The main symptoms of inflammation of the lungs are:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Weight loss without apparent cause
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Increased respiratory rate, known as aquipnea

The diagnosis of pneumonitis is done through a clinical evaluation and also performance of some tests such as lung X-ray, laboratory tests that assess the functioning of the ling and dosage of some antibodies in the blood. Moreover, a lung biopsy and bronchoscopy may also be performed by the physician so as to clarify any doubts and confirm the diagnosis.

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How to treat

The treatment of pneumonitis is done by refusing the exposure of the person to the causative agents of the disease. For infectious pneumonitis, antibiotics, antifungals and antiparasitics may be prescribed depending on the isolated infectious agent.

In some cases, the disease may be eliminated in a few hours after moving away from the causative agents, though in many cases the cure comes after a week. It is common that during the period of cure, the patient may feel short of breath when performing activities that require effort. This is due to the pulmonary fibrosis that can be installed.

In the most severe cases, it may be necessary for the individual ro be hospitalized and receive oxygen and medications which will control the reactions.

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