Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia (patient information)

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Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia

Overview

What are the symptoms?

What are the causes?

Who is at highest risk?

When to seek urgent medical care?

Diagnosis

Treatment options

Where to find medical care for Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia?

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Possible complications

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Overview

Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia is a fungal infection of the lungs. The disease used to be called Pneumocystis carinii.

What are the symptoms of Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia?

Pneumocystis pneumonia in those with AIDS usually develops slowly over days to weeks or even months, and is less severe. People with pneumocystis pneumonia who do not have AIDS usually get sick faster and are more acutely ill. Symptoms include:

  • Cough -- often mild and dry
  • Fever
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath -- especially with activity (exertion)

What causes Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia?

This type of pneumonia is caused by the fungus Pneumocystis jiroveci. This fungus is common in the environment and does not cause illness in healthy people. However, it can cause a lung infection in people with a weakened immune system due to:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic use of corticosteroids or other medications that weaken the immune system
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Organ or bone marrow transplant

Pneumocystis jiroveci was a relatively rare infection before the AIDS epidemic. Before the use of preventive antibiotics for the condition, most people in the United States with advanced AIDS would develop it.

Who is at highest risk?

This type of pneumonia is caused by the fungus Pneumocystis jiroveci. This fungus is common in the environment and does not cause illness in healthy people. However, it can cause a lung infection in people with a weakened immune system due to:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic use of corticosteroids or other medications that weaken the immune system
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Organ or bone marrow transplant

When to seek urgent medical care?

If you feel you are developing symptoms suggestive of Pneumocystis pneumonia contact your health professional.

Diagnosis

  • Blood gases
  • Bronchoscopy (with lavage)
  • Lung biopsy
  • X-ray of the chest
  • Sputum exam to check for fungus that causes the infection

Treatment options

Antibiotics can be given by mouth (orally) or through a vein (intravenously), depending on the severity of the illness. People with low oxygen levels and moderate to severe disease are often prescribed corticosteroids as well.

Where to find medical care for Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia?

Directions to Hospitals Treating Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Pneumocystis pneumonia can be life threatening, causing respiratory failure that can lead to death. People with this condition need early and effective treatment. For moderate to severe pneumocystis pneumonia in people with AIDS, the short term use of corticosteroids has decreased death.

Possible complications

  • Pleural effusion (extremely rare)
  • Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)
  • Respiratory failure (may require breathing support)

Sources

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000671.htm


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