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About Fungal Pneumonia

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Fungal pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by fungi. It can be caused by either endemic or opportunistic fungi or a combination of both. Case mortality in fungal pneumonias can be as high as 90% in immunocompromised patients, though immunocompetent patients generally respond well to anti-fungal therapy 

Symptoms Fungal pneumonia can present similarly to that of the common flu or other common illnesses. Symptoms often include fever, cough, headaches, rashes, muscle aches, and/or joint pain. This can lead to treatment being delayed or unsought altogether.

Age can play a part in the type and severity of symptoms in people with fungal pneumonia. In older adults, fungal pneumonia symptoms tend to be mild, but the condition can also lead to mental confusion, which requires immediate medical attention. Infants and toddlers with the condition may have difficulty feeding, pale-coloured skin, breathing difficulties (grunts or rattles while breathing), a limp appearance, less urine production, and fussiness. 

When to see a healthcare provider If a patient has been sick with respiratory symptoms and think they could have pneumonia, it’s very important that they seek medical care. They should call their provider if they have persistent shortness of breath, lingering fever with heavy mucus or extreme fatigue. They should also call their provider if they think they could have been exposed to a fungus that could cause fungal pneumonia, especially if they are at risk because of their age or weak immune system .

When fungal pneumonia becomes an emergency Pneumonia can become a medical emergency. A patient should call 999 or go to their nearest A&E if they or a loved one has trouble breathing and shortness of breath at rest, new or worsening chest pain and discomfort or confusion or disordered thinking.

Causes Fungi typically enter the lung with inhalation of their spores, though they can reach the lung through the bloodstream if other parts of the body are infected. Also, fungal pneumonia can be caused by reactivation of a latent infection. 

Types Several fungi cause fungal pneumonia, including Pneumocystis, Cryptococcus, and Aspergillus 

Diagnosis- The diagnosis of fungal pneumonias is difficult to prove and is often made on a presumptive basis. It relies on a combination of clinical, radiologic, and microbiological factors and can be diagnosed in several ways. The simplest and cheapest method is to culture the fungus from a patient’s respiratory fluids. However, such tests are not only insensitive but take time to develop which is a major drawback because studies have shown that slow diagnosis of fungal pneumonia is linked to high mortality.

Treatment Antifungal medications can cure this kind of infection. But if it is not treated, fungal pneumonia becomes very serious and can be deadly. Some common antifungal medications that can be used to treat fungal pneumonia include fluconazole, voriconazole, and amphotericin B 

Complications In a very small portion of people, fungal pneumonia can lead to chronic pneumonia, fungemia (presence of fungi in the blood), meningitis (infection of the meninges of the brain or spine), or even death. 

Prevention Prevention measures for fungal pneumonia include avoiding exposure to environments where fungi are commonly found and maintaining good health to keep the immune system strong.

Practitioner Development UK’s RCN Accredited Minor Ailments course is highly recommended for those primary care practitioners who want to develop their expertise in diagnosing and managing common minor illnesses. 

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