Pneumonia is a type of chest infection which causes inflammation of the tissue in one or both lungs and is usually caused by a bacterial infection. Tiny sacs within the lungs become inflamed and fill up with fluid. In most instances the condition can be cured but it can be life threatening to even the young and fit and must be taken seriously.
The most common form is a bacterium called streptococcus pneumoniae which is less contagious than flu or a cold and is generally dealt with by the body’s immune system before any infection is caused. Prevalent in the winter months when other infections such as flu are spread from which the risk of developing pneumonia increases.
Aside to bacterial pneumonia other types include viral pneumonia, aspirational pneumonia, fungal pneumonia and hospital acquired pneumonia.
Symptoms of pneumonia are similar to flu or a chest infection and might include one or more of the following;
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Loss of appetite
- Coughing up mucus
- A high temperature often accompanied by sweats and shivering
In severe cases symptoms might include quick breathing, confusion, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, coughing up blood or nausea and vomiting. If you feel unwell with any severe symptoms, particularly chest pain, a rapid heartbeat, quick breathing, shivers or confusion you are advised to seek urgent advice from your GP or call 999.
Risk groups include people over 65 years of age, people with cancer, especially those having chemotherapy, people with long-term heart, lung and kidney disease or diabetes, people who smoke or drink alcohol to excess and babies and young children.
A GP can diagnose pneumonia but it is likely a chest x-ray will be required to confirm. Early diagnosis and treatment is important which will involve antibiotics and in the more serious instances where treatment is provided in hospital, drip fed fluid and antibiotics. Oxygen is sometimes administered.
Pneumonia and Mesothelioma
Early symptoms of pleural mesothelioma can include pleural effusions (fluid build-up) around the lungs which can often be confused with pneumonia meaning a patient may be misdiagnosed and subjected to delay in their treatment.
Other common symptoms between the two conditions include shortness of breath, chest pain, dry cough and weight loss, and it is more likely a Doctor will suspect pneumonia rather than mesothelioma. Pleural thickening (scarring) of the lung linings and pleura can also be found in both conditions and in cases involving empyema, pleurisy and tuberculosis (TB).
It is common for the fluid to be drained from the lungs and tested to determine the presence of viral or bacterial pneumonia. Rarely do such tests indicate mesothelioma which is normally diagnosed by CT scan and PET Scan.
It follows that it is not uncommon for pleural mesothelioma to be misdiagnosed given its resemblance to that of pneumonia and flu. In cases of mesothelioma early detection is vital to improve survival rates.
If you have concerns regarding your general health and have encountered asbestos dust exposure you should consult with your GP at your earliest opportunity who will be best placed to determine what, if any, medical investigations are required, and which might include chest x-ray, CT Scan, PET Scan, blood test and/or a biopsy.
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