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Lung abscess: causes, symptoms and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

When the body’s defense mechanisms do not respond correctly and infectious agents are inhaled, in one or two weeks, the first signs of this delicate condition that poses a risk to the life of those who suffer from it could be observed.

A lung abscess is an infection, usually bacterial, that occurs in the tissue of the lung. The infection produces the death of the tissue and the accumulation of pus in the same space. Treatment can be a challenge for medical professionals, since time and proper decision-making are of vital importance for the total recovery of the patient.

At FastlyHeal , we want to inform you about what a lung abscess is: its causes, symptoms and treatment.

Table of Contents

Causes of lung abscess

A lung abscess is a cavity that forms from an infection that damages the lung tissues , leaving a space that will fill with pus . The appearance of a lung abscess is generally caused by the aspiration of bacteria that are found in the mouth or throat and in this way move into the lungs where they lodge and infect the tissue. Bacteria that cause gum disease can also be the source of a lung abscess.

The body, in general, reacts with mechanisms such as coughing to prevent the penetration of these bacteria into the lungs. But when the person is unconscious due to:

  • Anesthesia.
  • Drug or alcohol use.
  • You have a nervous system disease.

Those mechanisms disappear, and bacteria enter unimpeded.

This condition is associated with infection by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites , although what happens mostly is that the infection is due to anaerobic bacteria. In the case of people who are immunosuppressed, the causes of lung abscess can be other types of microorganisms that are not so common in this disease, such as fungi or bacteria. Some examples are Mycobacterium tuberculosis , streptococci, and staph, including Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause a very severe and life-threatening infection. These unusual pathogens must be identified as soon as possible, since the treatment used is different from that normally used.

The formation of an abscess can also be caused by the obstruction of the bronchi due to a foreign body or a tumor. In this case, the abscess is formed because behind the obstruction there is an accumulation of secretions that, when colonized by batteries, generate an infection. Less commonly, abscesses are caused by bacteria or clots that reach the lungs through the bloodstream from an infection in another part of the body. This mechanism is called septic pulmonary embolism . In this case it is possible that multiple abscesses are formed distributed in both lungs. When this type of infection is seen on the chest x-ray, it resembles the image of necrotizing pneumonia.

The factors that predispose individuals to suffer from a lung abscess are:

  • Dental disease
  • Immunodeficiency.
  • Alcoholism.
  • Cardiovascular diseases.
  • VIH .
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Coma.
  • General anesthesia.
  • Sedation.

Other diseases of the respiratory system such as:

Symptoms of lung abscess

This disease begins slowly and has no obvious symptoms . The person might think that it is a simple cold, but depending on the germ that has infected the lung, it could appear suddenly. The symptoms may initially resemble pneumonia.

Some of the main symptoms of lung abscess are:

  • Fatigue.
  • High fever.
  • Inappetence.
  • Night sweats.
  • Coughing up phlegm , which in some cases may have blood and an unpleasant odor caused by bacteria.
  • They may also have trouble breathing and feel chest pain when doing so.

Many times people do not pay attention to these symptoms and wait up to months before consulting the specialist, which can end in a chronic abscess, resistant to treatments. If the abscess is due to more virulent germs, such as Staphylococcus aureus , the symptoms are usually much stronger. Infection with this bacterium can cause the death of the patient in a matter of days, even hours if it is not treated quickly.

How is a lung abscess treated?

A patient who has been diagnosed with a lung abscess will need to receive intravenous antibiotics to begin with . Once the fever has subsided, you can switch to taking oral antibiotics until all symptoms disappear completely and, above all, the chest X-ray comes out clean. Usually 3-6 weeks of antibiotic treatment is required . However, the total cure of the patient may take longer.

When the lung abscess is caused by the obstruction of the airways due to a tumor or the presence of a foreign body, in some cases a bronchoscopy is done to remove the foreign body . In more complicated conditions, it may be necessary to empty the accumulation of pus in the pleural space, known as “empyema.” This procedure is done with a tube that is inserted into the chest. In other, even more complicated conditions, it may be necessary to remove part of the lung tissue, an entire lobe of the lung, or even the entire lung.

Sometimes physical therapy is also recommended for patients, which helps drain the lung abscess and helps re-expand the damaged area. Most patients do well and are completely cured. In cases of patients with compromised immunity and in cases where the abscess is due to the presence of a tumor, the success rate of the treatment decreases.

Lung abscess in children

In children, lung abscesses occur less than in adults, but it is also true that this disease has been less studied in the population of infants and older children. In general, when it occurs in children, it is the result of a complicated pneumonia, and antibiotic treatment is usually positive, although the abscess rarely needs to be drained. In these cases, the factors that predispose to the suffering of this condition are cases of small immunosuppressed or weakened and situations that contribute to the aspiration of bacteria from the mouth or throat, such as sedation, altered states of consciousness or seizures.

In both children and adults, the frequency of lung abscesses has now decreased thanks to the application of antibiotics and all the advances in medicine in this regard.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Lung abscess: causes, symptoms and treatment , we recommend that you enter our Lung and respiratory tract category .

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