What is Bronchopneumonia?
Bronchopneumonia is a special and severe type of pneumonia which is characterized by lung inflammation, mostly caused by fungi, viruses or bacteria. This infection causes swelling of the alveoli sacs in the lungs, causing them to develop fluid-like pus. The alveoli are special, tinny air sac structures found in the lungs. As for its name, "bronchopneumonia" is a disease that affects both the lungs and the bronchi. Bronchopneumonia can either be mild or severe.
What Causes Bronchopneumonia
Bronchopneumonia is mostly caused by viruses and bacteria you encounter in your everyday life. In most cases, a bacteria known as Streptococcus pneumonia is the major cause of bronchopneumonia. Although it is uncommon for pneumonia to occur from more than one type of bacteria, other possible causes of bronchopneumonia include:
- Haemophilus influenza
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Klebsiella pneumonia
It is also believed that the same virus that causes the flu and cold can also cause viral bronchopneumonia.
According to scientific research, patients mostly acquire very severe forms of bronchopneumonia in hospital settings. The pneumonia acquired in hospitals or clinics can be a result of the presence of some micro-organisms that are resistant to antibiotics.
Who Is At Risk?
Some groups of people may be at a higher risk of developing bronchopneumonia compared to others. The risk factors are:
- Being a heavy smoker
- Use of a ventilator
- Having AIDS or HIV
- Being below the age 2
- If you are 65 years old or above
- If you have a history of lung diseases such as asthma, cystic fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Having a weak immune system resulting from chemotherapy or the use of immunomodulatory drugs
- Suffering from a chronic disease such as diabetes or heart disease
- Experiencing a history of heavy alcohol usage
- Chronic coughing
- Difficulties swallowing
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of bronchopneumonia can develop suddenly or gradually. For example, viral bronchopneumonia may begin with symptoms related to those of flu, which become severe after several days. The following are symptoms of bronchopneumonia:
- Fever: Fever as a symptom of bronchopneumonia is characterized with elevated temperatures above 37°C. In this type of infection, fever can be a symptom of infection if it is accompanied by other signs and symptoms such as coughing, difficulty in breathing and common colds.
- Coughing: Coughing is mainly caused by a reaction of the body due to the presence of some particles which irritate the throat. However, coughing plays a big role in keeping your throat and airway clear and clean, hence making breathing easy. If a persistent cough is accompanied by mucus, this is a sign of a severe bronchopneumonia. Mostly, a person with bronchopneumonia experience excessive and frequent coughing which is accompanied by thick mucus.
- Chest pain: For those infected with moderate bronchopneumonia, any form of chest pain should be a point of concern. Chest pain is mostly associated with difficulty in breathing and excessive coughing. An individual suffering from bronchopneumonia may experience fatigue due to breathing difficulty after a certain physical exercise.
- Shortness of breath: A person suffering from bronchopneumonia may not only experience breathing difficulty but he/she may also have a sensation of not getting enough air. Such people frequently gasp for air.
Other signs and symptoms of bronchopneumonia include:
How Is Bronchopneumonia Diagnosed?
The first thing your doctor may do during a bronchopneumonia diagnosis is a physical examination. The following are looked at during the physical examination:
- Body temperature
- Using a stethoscope to listen to the lungs
- Listening for any wheezing or bubbling sounds which are commonly associated with bronchopneumonia
- Your health care provider will also listen to various places in your chest to identify the area exacerbating breathing difficulties
After the physical examination, your doctor may send you for tests to rule out other infections that may be causing the symptoms. The tests include:
- Complete blood count (CBC): A CBC is aimed at looking for the number of leucocytes in your blood. Increased number of the red blood cells signifies a bacterial infection. Your doctor also may also determine the fungi, virus or bacteria causing bronchopneumonia through microscopy.
- Chest X-ray Scan: A chest scan is one of the best ways to diagnose bronchopneumonia. In this test, electromagnetic radiation is used to create a clear picture of your chest and lungs. This gives your doctor the ability to identify the areas affected by bronchopneumonia.
- Bronchoscopy: This type of test involves placing a camera down your throat to view the bronchial tubes. This may be used to identify other factors which may have contributed to your bronchopneumonia.
- CT SCAN: A CT scan is a procedure which is used to create a picture, similar to that of x-ray scan. This scan tells your doctor the specific area of the lungs affected by bronchopneumonia
- Sputum culture: In this test, a sample of mucus taken from your lungs is cultured to determine the cause of infection. The cultured sputum contents are viewed under a powerful microscope.
- Pulse oximetry: This test involves putting a sensor on your finger. This sensor determines and measures the levels of oxygen in your blood. The results of this test can inform your health care provider how severe the infection is by determining your lungs' ability to absorb oxygen.
How is Bronchopneumonia Treated?
Some types of bronchopneumonia - such a viral bronchopneumonia - take a few weeks to improve on their own, so they doesn't require specific treatment. However, some antivirals are used to reduce the length of your illness as well as the severity of your symptoms.
In case of bacterial bronchopneumonia, your doctor will give you some antibiotics. The antibiotics target the bacteria causing the infection, destroying it. Most people feel better within the first three days of using the antibiotics. It is very important to finish the dose of your prescribed antibiotics to prevent the recurrence of bronchopneumonia.
Cough medication and fever reducers are also types of medications you may be given by your doctor for treatment of bacterial and viral bronchopneumonia. The medications do not cure the disease, but rather help relieve the symptoms.
There are also other home treatments which can reduce your symptoms. They include:
- Drinking a lot of warm fluids
- Drinking a lot of water
- Use of a humidifier
Can Bronchopneumonia Be Prevented?
The answer is yes! There are measures available that you can use to prevent and control bronchopneumonia. Vaccinations have made preventing pneumonia easy. A pneumococcus vaccine is available and it is effective for up to 5 years. This vaccine is best suited for individuals over the age of 65. Another vaccine, known as the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, is also available and is best suited for infants below the age of 2.
Apart from vaccine administration, there are also some home measures you can take to prevent bronchopneumonia. These measures include:
- Quitting smoking
- Avoiding excessive use of alcohol
- Avoiding any contact with infected individuals
- Regularly washing your hands
The Bottom Line
As discussed earlier in this article, bronchopneumonia is a very serious infection mainly caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi. Despite its severity at times, bronchopneumonia can be diagnosed and treated. Getting rid of bronchopneumonia can be easier than curing it. It is therefore recommended to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy food, getting enough rest and also exercising to prevent bronchopneumonia.
- Causes of bronchopneumonia
- Treatment for Bronchopneumonia