Pulmonary disease is a general term for diseases of the lungs, also known as pulmonary infections. It should not be confused with pneumonia, which refers specifically to a lung infection by a virus or bacteria. A pulmonary disease can be infectious in nature, with generally an airborne contamination - caused by a bacterium, parasite or virus: the classical case is straightforward acute lobar pneumonia. But, there are also interstitial lung diseases, which affect the lung tissue, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which originates from an inflammation of the alveoli.
A physical diagnosis by a general practitioner is sufficient enough to detect pneumonia. A chest radiograph may be necessary; it helps confirm the diagnosis by revealing opaque areas in the lungs. X-rays are also used to measure the severity of the infection in the alveoli and lung parenchyma. Lastly, a blood test will measure the presence of increased levels of white blood cells.
Pneumonia manifests itself in different ways:
- fever above 38° C, accompanied by chills;
- breathing problems that can be combined with an increase in respiratory rate;
- chest pain, especially when breathing;
- a sharp drop in blood pressure which can lead to loss of consciousness;
- vomiting, diarrhea or even nausea.
These symptoms are felt very quickly during a bacterial pneumonia, unlike a viral pneumonia in which they occur more slowly.
Hospitalization is required only if the pneumonia is severe: the patient is hydrated, oxygenated artificially or mechanically ventilated. These are antibiotics that fight against pneumonia: amoxicillin - orally, intramuscularly or intravenously - is prescribed for an acute lobar pneumonia, macrolide antibiotics - orally or intravenously - are prescribed for atypical cases of pneumonia. In the elderly and in people with heart, liver, kidney or respiratory failure
, vaccination against influenza
and pneumococcal disease is recommended.