The lung is a frequent target of infection including acute bronchitis or pneumonia, which are often caused by viruses, but also can be caused by bacteria or fungal organisms. With rest, supportive care, and occasionally antibiotics most of these infections should improve in a few weeks. If your symptoms persist beyond a few weeks you may have a more complicated infection or an alternative diagnosis which may need further therapy. Symptoms suggestive of a chronic and/or resistant infection include:
Fevers for over 1 week
Cough for over 3 weeks
Swollen lymph nodes (glands) in your neck or arm pits
Coughing up blood
Feeling like your symptoms return every time you stop antibiotics
If these symptoms persist talk to your doctor about whether you may need further evaluation for a chronic infection. Often this evaluation may include repeated x-rays, CAT scans, testing your phlegm for bacteria or fungi, and occasionally a bronchoscopy where we take a camera and look down your trachea (wind pipe) for signs of infection. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are on any medications which may affect your immune system. Chronic pulmonary infections are treatable, especially when diagnosed early. Specific infections that are common in central Ohio include:
Histoplasmosis: a fungus that lives in the soil and is associated with bird droppings. Histoplasmosis can not be passed person to person. It can cause either an acute or chronic pneumonia. It is treatable and is often diagnosed by a blood or urine test.
Blastomycosis: a fungus that lives in the soil. Like Histoplasmosis it is not passed person to person. It can cause chronic pneumonias and skin sores that look like boils. It is often diagnosed by blood test or examination of the sores on the skin. It is treatable with antifungal agents.
Tuberculosis (TB): a special type of bacteria which can cause chronic pneumonia. It is highly contagious and can be passed person to person. If you suspect you’ve been exposed to TB you should notify your doctor immediately. Often those exposed will not develop pneumonia immediately and we treat these patients prior to them developing a true infection. For more information about tuberculosis please refer to the Ben Franklin TB clinic.
Mycobacterium (non-tuberculosis): These cousins of TB are not passed person to person and are generally acquired from the soil or water supply. These bacteria can cause a chronic infection that may need to be treated. Your doctor can help you decide if you need treatment for a non-tuberculous mycobacterium infection.
Bronchiectasis: Not a true infection, patients with bronchiectasis have scarring in their lungs which makes them susceptible to repeat bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia. There are treatments that can greatly reduce the frequency of these infections. Often bronchiectasis is diagnosed by a CAT scan of the chest.
There are many other chronic infections or diseases that may mimic these infections. If you have any questions about your symptoms ask your doctor or contact us at: (614) 293-4925.
One long standing and serious pulmonary infection is Tuberculosis. Dr. Matthew Exline and Dr. Sarah Tapyrik work closely with the tuberculosis clinic of Franklin County to help evaluate patients with chronic symptoms or abnormal chest x-rays linked to Tuberculosis.