What is Pneumonitis?

Pneumonitis is a general term that is applied to conditions that cause inflammation of the lung tissues. Specifically, the alveoli, which are the tiny sacs in the lungs that fill with air when a person breathes in, become inflamed when a person suffers from pneumonitis.

There are numerous different types of pneumonitis that a person may suffer from and a wide variety of causes. A bacterial infection, fungal infection, or even a viral infection could potentially cause pneumonitis. In fact, pneumonia is technically one of the many forms of pneumonitis.

Aside from infections, there are also medications that can cause a person to develop this lung condition. Some antibiotics may irritate the lungs and cause inflammation and several different types of chemotherapy drugs could also have this undesirable side effect. Radiation therapy, another type of cancer treatment, can also cause pneumonitis. Sometimes a person can have pneumonitis that is so severe and long lasting that it can result in what is known as pulmonary fibrosis which is scar tissue in the lungs that can be permanent.

What are the Symptoms of Pneumonitis?

If a person has a history of being around or exposed to lung irritants like mold, birds, or is going through cancer treatments, this can be a good indicator of pneumonitis. The most common symptom of the condition is shortness of breath.

A person may also experience a dry, nagging cough that goes along with their shortness of breath. Chest pain can also occur and may feel like a burning sensation. Pneumonitis can also cause weight loss and fatigue if it becomes chronic. The affected person may also lose their appetite as a result of pneumonitis.

Pneumonitis Causes

The causes of pneumonitis include certain antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, and medications to regulate your heartbeat. It can also result from an overdose of aspirins. Repeated exposure to molds and bacteria can also trigger the condition by causing the lungs to become inflamed.

Specific kinds of pneumonitis that derive from mold have aliases such as “farmer’s lung” or “hot tub lung”. Frequent proximity to birds has also been known to cause this lung disease, since bird feathers and excrement contain the bacteria that cause of pneumonitis.

If you undergo radiation therapy near your chest for breast or lung cancer, you are more likely to get pneumonitis. It sometimes occurs following whole-body radiation treatment. Whole-body radiation therapy is sometimes required to prepare someone for a bone marrow transplant.

Proximity to the antigen that causes pneumonitis triggers the condition. Some people have to accept this as a job hazard because they are unable to avoid exposure or change jobs. Exposure to dust in your immediate work area and failure to wear a protective mask can cause recurrences of the disease. Poor ventilation can promote the antigens that cause pneumonitis.

How is Pneumonitis Treated?

Depending on the cause of pneumonitis, avoiding lung irritants may be the best treatment option available. Getting away from allergens or chemicals that contribute to the condition will often resolve it. However, if an infection or medications are to blame, or the pneumonitis is severe, other treatments are available. Corticosteroids are one such option as they can reduce inflammation and therefore help with pneumonitis symptoms. Sometimes oxygen therapy can also help so that pure air enters the lungs and may help the body get the chance to overcome the irritation in the lungs.

Pneumonitis Prevention

To prevent pneumonitis, avoid crowds during flu season. If you smoke, quit smoking and avoid exposure to second-hand smoke. An annual influence shot can help prevent the condition as can frequent hand washing.

The pneumonia vaccine Pneumovax helps prevent contraction of the most typical form of bacterial pneumonia. The Pneumovax vaccine is highly recommended for the following populations: those over age 65 or those suffering from heart disease. Victims of cancer, AIDS, HIV and other diseases that compromise the immune system are also vulnerable should receive the flu vaccine.

If you have a lung infection or diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema, you should get the Pneumovax vaccine. Those with diabetes are also at risk and should be vaccinated.