What is Pneumonitis?
Pneumonitis is a general medical term which indicates the presence of inflammation in the lung tissues. This inflammation may be due to several factors including infection from a virus or as an allergic reaction. Certain drugs or materials such as silica or asbestos may irritate the tissues of the lungs and cause inflammatory changes on them. Others may get pneumonitis from exposure to bacteria and molds. Some people also have inflammation on lung tissues after radiation therapy to the chest area and after having been exposed to poultry and birds. When the lung tissue inflammation starts, those affected will usually present with breathing difficulties and coughs. Some may also have low-grade fever.
Pneumonitis that occurs after exposure to certain substances and particles within 4 to 12 hours is called acute pneumonitis. Aside from cough, fever, and shortness of breath, those affected may experience chills or shivering and body aches. If this acute exposure to lung tissue allergens is left untreated, the inflammation may develop into a chronic type of pneumonitis with resulting fibrosis or scarring of lung tissue. For chronic pneumonitis, people may get easily fatigued, lose appetite and lose weight.
Chest x-rays, CT scans, blood tests, and pulmonary function tests may be done to diagnose pneumonitis and to check severity of inflammation to the lung tissues. In some cases, a bronchospy or lung biopsy may be necessary to view lung tissues inside the body and/or get samples for checking.
For hypersensitivity related conditions, avoidance of exposure to allergens is strictly advised by doctors to avoid symptoms and further inflammation of lung tissue. Corticosteroids are prescribed for severe types of pneumonitis to reduce lung inflammation. Others are given strong antibiotics to combat the bacteria that caused the lung infection and inflammation. Oxygen therapy may also be prescribed to help those with difficulty in breathing.