The first step in recognizing infections of the lung is to be aware of the symptoms. Because of the different origins of lung infections, symptoms may differ.
Influenza (flu) is caused by the influenza virus and is a common seasonal respiratory infection that affects the nose, throat and lungs. Influenza usually takes place between the months of October and March. The elderly, newborns and those with chronic medical conditions are particularly at increased risk for getting the flu. Influenza can be serious and life threatening and is sometimes fatal.
Influenza symptoms may include:
- Body aches
- Sore throat
Diagnosing influenza is done with a physical examination, blood tests that detect influenza and fluorescent antibody tests.
Tuberculosis, more commonly known as TB, is a highly contagious bacterial infection that usually attacks the lungs. There are two types of TB – latent TB and active TB. Latent TB takes place in individuals who do not become sick with TB and cannot spread TB. Active TB occurs in individuals who become sick with TB. If not properly treated, TB can be deadly. Tuberculosis also can attack other body organs such as the kidney, spine and brain. TB is spread to others when someone with TB coughs or sneezes. The most common symptoms of tuberculosis may include:
- Severe cough that lasts for more than three weeks
- Coughing up blood or mucus
- Chest pain
Other related TB symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Night sweats
A skin test is used to diagnose tuberculosis. The skin test involves injecting a small amount of fluid under the skin. The test is read a few days after to establish if there is swelling at the injection site. It is then measured positive or negative for an infection.
Pneumonia is an infection of the lung caused by bacteria that affects the alveoli or small sacs of the lungs. There are many types of pneumonia that are caused by an array of microscopic organisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. Pneumonia is usually very treatable, but it can become fatal in the elderly, people with compromised immune system, or people with a serious, chronic disease such as COPD. Pneumonia symptoms may include:
- Cough that contains green or yellow mucus
- Coughing up blood
- Severe chills
- Clammy feeling skin
- Sharp chest pain
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
- Immense fatigue
- Confusion in elderly
Diagnosing pneumonia involves a variety of tests. These tests include:
- Chest X-ray
- Mucus or sputum culture
- Blood tests
- CT scan (computed tomography)
- Pleural fluid culture
Bronchitis is a lung disease that stems from the swelling of the mucus membranes in the bronchial passages in the lungs. The membranes swell and expand, restricting the small airways in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. There are two types of bronchitis – acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis.
About Acute Bronchitis
Acute bronchitis can last from one to three weeks and is usually associated with a hacking-type cough and thick mucus that may be associated with an upper respiratory infection. In the majority of cases, acute bronchitis lung infection stems from a viral origin. However, at times it can stem from bacterial origin.
Smokers are more vulnerable to developing acute bronchitis. Cigarettes damage the cilia in the lungs which eliminate fragments, irritants and additional mucus from the lungs.
Continued smoking will damage and cause the cilia to stop performing correctly and speed up the likelihood of establishing chronic bronchitis. Often in excessive smokers the mucus membranes that line the airway stay inflamed and cause the cilia to stop functioning. This leaves the lungs susceptible to both viral and bacterial lung infections and often leads to damaging the lungs’ airways and developing COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
About Chronic Bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis is a serious lung disorder. It is usually associated with a cold and a repeated mucus-type cough that last for at least three months, two years in a row. Heavy smokers are more vulnerable to chronic bronchitis. The constant coughing that occurs in heavy smokers is often dismissed as “smokers cough.”
Those exposed to industrial dust and or chemicals in the workplace are also candidates for chronic bronchitis. During the morning and in wet, cold weather, the cough worsens. As the airways become restricted, the lungs become susceptible to infections. Untreated chronic bronchitis causes damage to the heart and additional respiratory problems. If detected early, chronic bronchitis can be managed.
Chronic bronchitis symptoms include:
- Produced over abundance of mucus
- Thickened lining of the airways
- Aggravated cough
- Restricted airflow
Chronic bronchitis is diagnosed by the following:
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- Chest X-ray
- Pulmonary function test
- Oxygen level test