Before we look at the problem of a lung abscess, it might be useful to look at the function of this organ. It will help us understand why we need healhty lungs and what can happen if they get diseased!
What is the function of the lungs?
Our lungs are responsible for taking in the oxygen needed to keep us going. It is essential for normal body functioning. Another role is to remove carbon dioxide (waste product) out of our body, which is harmful if builds up. So we need healthy lungs!
The lungs protect us from harmful substances by filtering dusts, dirt and small organisms. This is by means of coughing or sneezing. However, even though lungs have filters they can still be inflicted with disease…
What is a lung abscess?
A lung abscess is an infection of the tissues of the lungs, a localized collection of pus. The result of this infection is tissue death of the affected area. The problem can also be acquired as a secondary complication of other diseases (such as cancer and other lung problems).
Lung Abscess Causes
The causes of this infection include the following:
- Infection – often caused by Pseudomonas (bacteria that attacks major organs like lungs and kidneys) and Aspergillus (fungi that causes difficulty of breathing).
- Underlying medical condition – cancer, pneumonia, other lung problems and gum abscess will decrease our body’s protection from harmful organisms.
- Smokers are much more prone to infection.
- Foreign bodies lodged in the lungs may become a focus on infection. e.g. a small piece of inhaled food.
Symptoms that may occur
Usually, when the lung is affected, the common symptom noted is problems with the breathing process. Here are the common signs and symptoms of lung abscess:
- Breathing – breathlessness, frequent panting and difficulty of breathing is noted. Phlegm production and coughing are evident. The breath sounds are decreased. However, crackles are heard upon exhalation.
- Fever – due to infection, the body temperature is elevated.
- Weight loss – appetite will be suppressed due to the infection.
Most lung problems present with very similar signs and symptoms. And to not mistake a lung abscess from something else, diagnostic procedures are ordered by the physician:
- Blood tests – Complete Blood Count (CBC) is obtained to check for the levels of WBC (White Blood Cells). Elevation from normal means infection. Another blood test is the culture. This is to determine the microorganism that is causing the infection.
- Sputum GSCS (Gram Stain, Culture and Sensitivity) – the sputum is checked for microorganisms present. These microorganisms are tested on what medicines it is sensitive too. This is an important procedure done to aid the doctor in prescribing the correct anitbiotic.
- Ultrasonography of the lungs – an imaging test to look for signs of fluid accumulation and its severity in the lungs.
- CT (Computerized Tomography) scan – provides a detailed image of the lungs. Vertical and horizontal slices of the lungs. Therefore, any growths in the lungs can be located immediately. X-rays may be used if CT is not available.
Lung Abscess Treatment
Home remedies for lung infection will include:
- Bad habits like smoking must be stopped right away.
- Protect yourself by wearing face mask when going out of the house. This is to filter dust, dirt and other small substances that can irritate your lungs.
- Sleep with 2 pillows on the back to elevate your head. This way, breathing while lying down is more comfortable.
- Practice deep breathing exercises for better lung expansion.
Here is a list of the medical treatment for patients afflicted with lung abscess:
- Antibiotics – the course of antibiotic therapy usually lasts for 4 to 6 weeks. Different antibiotics are prescribed for different patients. The medication kind, dosage and frequency depend on the result of the blood culture and sputum culture and sensitivity.
- Surgical resection – infection like this in the lungs will cause death of the tissue. This dead tissue is surgically removed. When the antibiotics treatments are ineffective, surgical resection is the last treatment option.
The length of treatment varies from one person to the other. A combination of remedies is individualized to suit specific needs for each patient. Lung abscess is a potentially fatal condition, but with early detection and cure, complications are rarer and recovery is faster. If you have any lung problems such as difficulty breathing, do seek help early from your doctor.