Symptoms Of Pneumocystis Pneumonia: Diagnosis And Treatment

Pneumocystis pneumonia is a type of pneumonia which is caused by the fungus Pneumocystitis jirovecii. Pneumocystis pneumonia is seldom found in the lungs of healthy individuals, but, is responsible for opportunistic infections in those who have a weak immune mechanism. Pneumocystis pneumonia is particularly seen in those who have cancer and are on chemotherapy and those who are diagnosed with AIDS.

The symptoms can be mild to life-threatening. Common manifestations include:

  • Productive cough
  • Shortness of breath, breathlessness
  • Fever, sweating, and chills
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in the chest
  • Lassitude
  • Weight loss
  • Night sweats

Symptoms vary in intensity and severity depending on the age and general health of the patient.

Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia was known as Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in the past; it is the commonest opportunistic infection which can produce life-threatening infections in people having advanced HIV infection.

Diagnosis Of Pneumocystis Pneumonia

  • A blood test: It confirms an infection.
  • A sputum test: Helps to identify the cause of the infection.
  • Pulse oximetry: An oxygen sensor is placed on a finger to show whether your lungs are moving adequate amounts of oxygen through the blood.
  • Fluid sample: In case there is any fluid in the pleural space, your doctor will aspirate some fluid using a needle introduced between your ribs to evaluate it.
    This test helps recognize the precise cause of the infection and establishes the diagnosis.
  • CT Scan: Provides the doctor with a clear and detailed picture of your lungs.
  • Bronchoscopy: This investigation looks in to the airways in the lungs. A camera at the end of a flexible tube is gently introduced and guided down the throat and in to the lungs. This test is done when the early symptoms are severe, or if you are hospitalized and your body is not responding to any treatment.

Treatment Guidelines For PCP Pneumonia

  • Doctors usually prescribe co-trimoxazole, or regular pentamidine inhalations can help prevent Pneumocystitis Pneumonia in immune-compromised people.
  • Anti-pneumocystic drugs are used with steroids to stay away from inflammation, which is known to trigger an exacerbation of the symptoms about 4 days after treatment commences, in case the steroids are not administered. The most commonly used drug for such a case is trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, on the other hand, some patients cannot tolerate this treatment due to allergies. Other drugs may then be prescribed, alone or in combination; these include – dapsone, maleate, trimetrexate, etc. The treatment regimen is typically for 21 days.
  • Pentamidine is not used that often, given that, it has been associated with a high frequency of side effects – kidney failure, acute inflammation of the pancreas, reduced WBCs, liver toxicity, reduced blood sugar level and fever.
  • Before the more effective treatments methods were discovered, Pneumocystitis Pneumonia was a very common and a very rapid cause of death in people diagnosed with AIDS. Much of the incidence of Pneumocystitis Pneumonia has decreased by making sure that the doctor institutes a standard practice of using oral co-trimaxole to ward off the occurrence of the disease in those people who have CD4 counts less than 200/μL. In places which that do not have access to the preventive treatment, Pneumocystitis Pneumonia is a chief cause of death in AIDS.