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Bronchopneumonia: Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment

Bronchopneumonia is a type of pneumonia that causes the lungs to be inflamed [1] . Symptoms can be mild to severe and usually include breathing issues, fever and coughing. This illness can be caused due to bacterial, viral or fungal chest infections [2] . People whose health is not compromised due to other health issues recover within a few weeks with proper medical intervention. Depending on the severity of the illness, treatment can be at home or in the hospital. Vaccinations exist to protect at-risk individuals from this ailment.

Read on to know more about this illness, its symptoms, treatment and prevention.

What Is Bronchopneumonia?

The large air passages that connect the windpipe to the lungs are known as the bronchi. These split into many tiny air tubes known as bronchioles, which form the lungs. Tiny air sacs called alveoli are present at the end of the bronchioles. This is where the exchange of oxygen from the lungs and carbon dioxide from the bloodstream takes place [3] .

When a person suffers from pneumonia, there is inflammation in the lungs that lead to the alveoli filling with fluid. Normal lung functionality is impaired due to this fluid. This leads to plenty of respiratory problems. Bronchopneumonia affects both the alveoli in the lungs as well as the bronchi [4] .

Symptoms Of Bronchopneumonia

The severity of the condition determines the symptoms. People with a weak immune system are likely to have severe symptoms [5] . The following are some of the major symptoms of bronchopneumonia [6] :

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Chest pain that gets worse when one coughs
  • Chills
  • Coughing up mucus
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Coughing up blood
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion

Symptoms found especially in children are as follows [7] :

  • A rapid heart rate
  • Low blood oxygen levels
  • Congestion
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Retractions of chest muscles
  • Decreased interest in consuming foods or drinks

Risk Factors For Developing Bronchopneumonia

The following factors can increase your risk of developing this condition:

Age: Children below the age of 2 years and the elderly who are above the age of 65 years have a higher risk of developing this condition [8] .

Lifestyle: Poor nutrition, smoking and a history of heavy alcohol use can put you at the risk of developing this condition [9] .

Environmental: People who work in hospitals or nursing homes can develop this condition easily [10] .

Medical conditions: Having the following medical conditions can increase your risk of developing this type of pneumonia [11] :

  • Chronic lung disease
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Chronic cough
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Ventilator support
  • Cancer
  • Chronic disease such as diabetes
  • Weak immune system due to chemotherapy
  • Autoimmune disease such as lupus

Complications That Can Arise Due to Bronchopneumonia

If left untreated, bronchopneumonia can lead to the following complications [12] :

  • Sepsis: Can lead to multiple organ failure
  • Respiratory failure: Occurs when the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs begins to fail
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome: A severe form of respiratory failure that is life-threatening
  • Lung abscesses: Formation of pus-filled sacs inside the lungs

Diagnosis Of Bronchopneumonia

Apart from looking at the patient's medical history, the doctor would also perform a physical examination to reach a conclusive diagnosis. A typical indication of bronchopneumonia is breathing problems such as wheezing. If this condition is suspected, you would be asked to undergo the following tests [13] :

  • Chest X-ray or CT scan: Imaging tests allow the doctor to check for signs of infection inside the lungs.
  • Sputum culture: The mucus that a person has coughed up is tested to detect infection [14] .
  • Blood tests: An abnormal white blood cell count can be a sign of infection.
  • Bronchoscopy: A thin tube with a light and camera is passed through a person's mouth, into the lungs [15] . This allows the doctor to see clearly inside the lungs.
  • Pulse oximetry: This calculates the amount of oxygen flowing through the bloodstream [16] .
  • Arterial blood gases: This test determines oxygen levels in a person's blood.

Treatment Of Bronchopneumonia

The treatment procedure depends on the severity of the condition. People who suffer from this condition but do not have any other health issues recover within 1 to 3 weeks.

Mild forms of bronchopneumonia can be treated at home using a combination of rest and medication. However, severe forms would need strict medical intervention. If bronchopneumonia is due to a bacterial infection, your doctor would treat it using antibiotics [17] . Ensure that you complete the full course of the medication prescribed.

Antibiotics do not work for viral infections. For viral bronchopneumonia, your doctor might prescribe an antiviral medicine [18] .

For people who have fungal bronchopneumonia [19] , your doctor might prescribe antifungal medication.

While recovering the person should get ample rest and drink lots of fluids to help thin the mucus and, in turn, reduce the discomfort when coughing.

A person suffering from bronchopneumonia should be taken to the hospital immediately when any of the following is noticed:

  • The person has difficulty in breathing
  • The person has chest pain
  • The person has rapid breathing
  • The person has low blood pressure
  • The person shows signs of confusion
  • The person needs breathing assistance
  • The person suffers from chronic lung disease

Prevention Of Bronchopneumonia

Vaccination exists to prevent certain forms of bronchopneumonia [20] . The following is recommended to prevent bronchopneumonia:

  • Get vaccinated against diseases that can lead to pneumonia such as flu, measles, chicken pox, etc.
  • Speak to your doctor about ways by which you can prevent pneumonia.
  • Wash your hands regularly to avoid germs.
  • Quit smoking.
View Article References
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Story first published: Saturday, June 1, 2019, 9:00 [IST]
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