What Is Chronic Pneumonia?

Symptoms of chronic pneumonia may include coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
A doctor may order a chest x-ray to diagnose chronic pneumonia.
Pneumonia is often caused by an infection in the lungs.
With chronic pneumonia, the lungs can appear obstructed on x-rays.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 15 December 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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Chronic pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs that persists for an extended period of time, without a sudden onset. In contrast, acute pneumonia develops quickly and usually lasts less than three weeks. Classically, pneumonia is caused by infection with bacteria, viruses, or fungi that colonize the lungs and cause irritation. Treatment requires providing medication to kill the organisms and offering supportive therapy if the patient has difficulty breathing or develops other complications.

People can develop chronic pneumonia at any age. The symptoms can onset so slowly that people may not realize they have pneumonia for days or weeks. Signs of chronic pneumonia can include coughing, wheezing, fatigue, difficulty breathing, fever, night sweats, and chest pains. People do not have to have a history of chest cold or known exposure to infectious organisms to develop pneumonia as this condition can be acquired in any number of places.

In patients with a chronic case of pneumonia, blood testing usually shows unusually high levels of white blood cells and other signs of chronic inflammation. The lungs can appear obstructed on X-rays and if they are imaged with an endoscopy procedure, changes can be seen in the airways and the insides of the lungs, showing that chronic inflammation has resulted in redness, excessive production of mucus, and other changes to the respiratory tract.

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Some doctors start a patient with chronic pneumonia on antibiotic medications immediately. Others may request a sample from the lungs for the purpose of culturing the organisms to find out what is causing the infection. Doing a culture can help a doctor identify the correct medications to use, minimizing wasted time with ineffective medications. Cultures can be especially important if there is a concern about a possibility of infection with drug resistant organisms that will not respond to common drugs. Ventilation is sometimes needed for patients with pneumonia if they experience extreme difficulty breathing and medications may be given to open up the airways and help wheezing patients breathe more freely.

Infection with chronic pneumonia can cause long-term damages. Lung capacity may be permanently impaired and patients can be left with scarring and other problems that cause difficulty breathing in the future. Recovery time from this type of pneumonia can be longer than patients might expect as the lungs need to heal after the infectious organisms are killed off. It is important to complete courses of recommended medications, follow directions about rest, and comply with other directions designed to protect lung health.

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Discuss this Article

anon294229
Post 5

I had a walking pneumonia for about two and a half years. It was not really fun. I thought it was something else. I got antibiotics and the worst of it went away in a couple of weeks, but I am still recovering physically about three and a half months later.

lovealot
Post 4

Did you know that doctors have understood a lot about pneumonia even back in ancient times? But they didn't know about the germs that caused it.

Today we know that bacteria called streptococcus is one common bacteria that causes pneumonia. I believe this is the germ that the vaccine works against.

It is highly recommended that those who are 65 and over should have a vaccination. They also have one for children 2-5 years old.

Anybody who has a serious health condition like heart or liver failure, or diabetes should get a shot. Anyone who has low immunity- cancer patients receiving chemotherapy need a shot.

Most people can recover from pneumonia with a couple of visits to the doctor and treatment with antibiotics. But some get complications like blood poisoning or meningitis. They usually need to stay in the hospital for a while.

There's really no way to predict who is at risk to develop complications. Try to keep your immune system strong - that will help.

Clairdelune
Post 3

I've had pneumonia just once. That was enough! I think it was viral. But, the doctor still gave me antibiotics. I guess that's because there's always the chance that it could become a bacterial infection. I don't think that anything can make the viral kind go away faster. Your body just has to heal itself.

It's really an awful illness. You have little energy. Whatever energy you do have is used up by almost constant coughing for weeks. I think that I had the flu first and then got pneumonia on top of that.

Anyway, I decided to get the pneumonia shot. It's supposed to give you protection for a lifetime. Here's hoping!

Jane56
Post 2

@fredo - Colds can turn into bronchitis and severe bronchitis can also turn into pneumonia.

When pneumonia arrives on the scene, there are symptoms that include a high fever, *extreme* fatigue, and not necessarily a cough, but when there is, the cough produces sputum that can be tinged with blood. It can have pink streaks or appear brownish, as in dried blood.

One thing I've found to be very helpful is that when there is a cough with a cold, the mucus that comes up is either clear or white. When it becomes tinged with other colors or becomes another color, its a sign of an infection going on, possibly bronchitis or pneumonia.

It's obviously not the only measuring stick but it has helped me in the past.

Fredo
Post 1

It seems like this might be a condition that could be confused with others, such as a bad long-running cold or bronchitis, for instance.

Many people get bronchitis and then wind up with pneumonia and never knew when it went from one to another. So it would seem hard to know which one you have. Are there any warning signs that could tip us off as to something turning from a cold or bronchitis into pneumonia?

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