Inflammation of the lungs: symptoms, causes, treatment and more

Lung inflammation can be acute or chronic, and there are many possible causes, including exposure, infections, and medical conditions such as asthma or bronchitis . Because pneumonia can affect lung function, it can cause wheezing , shortness of breath, pain, and tightness in the chest.

Diagnosing pneumonia involves a comprehensive approach that includes a physical exam, imaging tests, lung function tests , and more. Depending on the cause, pneumonia can be treated with medications or procedures to relieve symptoms and control the underlying disease. Prevention strategies, like avoiding triggers, are also important.

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Symptoms of lung inflammation

The visible effects of pneumonia can develop quickly or slowly, depending on the extent of the inflammation, the cause, and your overall health. If you have chronic inflammation, you can get used to the situation and ignore your symptoms, especially if they are mild and fairly persistent.

With acute and rapidly worsening pneumonia, the consequences are hard to ignore and you probably can't help but notice that something is wrong.

Symptoms of pneumonia can include:

  • Feeling tired after exercise.
  • General feeling of tiredness.
  • Wheezing
  • Dry or productive cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest discomfort, tightness, or pain
  • Feeling of pain in the lungs.
  • Shortness of breath

Problems such as fever, weight loss, or high blood pressure can also occur. But these effects are associated with underlying medical conditions that lead to pneumonia, not the inflammation itself.


Inflammation of the lungs is not always serious, like a cold or mild flu . But illnesses that cause even mild pneumonia can make you tired, such as pneumonia or chronic obstructive airway disease (COPD) . Your body uses energy to fight infection, and the weakening of airflow due to pneumonia can lead to low oxygen levels and therefore low energy levels.

Sometimes severe pneumonia can seriously affect the absorption of air and oxygen in the lungs. This can cause hypoxemia (low blood levels in the lungs) or hypoxia (low blood oxygen levels in the tissues) , leading to dizziness or loss of consciousness. To cope with these consequences, you will need urgent medical attention.

Airway remodeling

Chronic inflammation can promote airway remodeling, in which the airways become thicker and prone to mucus production. The effects of airway remodeling include lung congestion, difficulty in draining secretions, and a tendency for lung infections.

Ventilation can also be affected due to decreased oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide emission. If you are seriously ill due to an acute infection, the effects of airway remodeling can make you prone to hypercapnia (carbon dioxide retention) , which will require mechanical ventilation.


Your lungs can become inflamed if they are infected, irritated, or damaged. Inflammation is the body's way of healing, so it is often a reaction to something harmful.

However, sometimes your lungs can become inflamed due to an inherited condition such as cystic fibrosis , or an overly reactive immune system, such as an autoimmune condition such as Sjogren 's syndrome.

Inflammation of the alveoli (alveoli) or bronchi (airways) prevents air from leaving the lungs easily and can make it difficult to breathe. Inflammation can also increase the risk of lung infections by trapping infectious material in the lungs.

Inflammation of the lung is a disease-causing process that often results in decreased lung function if left unchecked. Inflammation in the lungs can be diffuse, spread to the lungs, or concentrated in specific regions. Pulmonary sarcoidosis, for example, can cause pulmonary granulomas , which are large inflammatory nodules.

While this list is not exhaustive, it does cover the most common causes of pneumonia.

Irritant effect

Inflammation helps your lungs rebuild. Depending on the degree of irritation, the inflammation can be short-term with minimal consequences or long-term and harmful.

When airborne toxins such as cigarette smoke, pollutants, chemicals, and environmental fumes enter the lungs, irritation occurs. Pneumonitis is a type of diffuse pneumonia that can develop in response to chemical stimuli.

Exposure to radiation, as with cancer treatments, can irritate the lungs as a result of radiation pneumonitis .


Lung infections, such as acute bronchitis and pneumonia , often cause severe pneumonia. The inflammation can be heterogeneous, affecting points in the lungs or localized in one area. The picture of pneumonia in lung infections differs depending on the infection.

In general, for a mild, self-limited infection, the pneumonia should resolve as the infection resolves.

Severe lung infections can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) , a life-threatening condition in which lung function suddenly deteriorates.


Asthma is characterized by episodic inflammation and bronchospasm (sudden narrowing of the bronchial tubes) , making it difficult for air to enter the airways. Inflammation is often caused by infection or exposure to environmental irritants and can precede or trigger bronchospasm.

Asthma attacks can cause severe respiratory symptoms. And there may be some asthma symptoms between asthma attacks.


Chronic obstructive lung diseases include emphysema and chronic bronchitis. These conditions are often the result of problems like smoking and progressively progress to cause significant lung damage, mucus production, and inflammation. All of these problems aggravate each other over time.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by persistent fatigue and shortness of breath, often with flare -ups that are episodes of worsening symptoms.

Swelling of the chest

There are different types and causes of chest inflammation. Sometimes the inflammation spreads to the lungs from the outside.

Costochondritis, an inflammation of the rib cartilage that connects the rib to the sternum, is a common cause of chest inflammation. Costochondritis causes a sharp or stabbing pain that occurs when you or your healthcare provider put pressure on the affected area of the chest wall.

Chest wall pain (musculoskeletal chest pain) may develop if you have costochondritis or any type of inflammation of the chest wall or ribs.

Systemic diseases

Inflammatory diseases like fibromyalgia , lupus, rheumatoid arthritis , and sarcoidosis can affect the lungs. These conditions can occur sporadically or sporadically, leading to inflammation that primarily affects the joints or muscles. Inflammation of the lungs is not uncommon .

In such situations, it can be difficult to distinguish between pneumonia and lung infection, especially since immunosuppressants (which increase the risk of infections) are the usual treatment for these inflammatory conditions.

Lung trauma

Any type of injury to or near the lungs, such as a rib fracture or pneumothorax , can trigger an inflammatory response as the body tries to heal from the damage.

Sometimes this type of injury occurs suddenly from an injury externally (such as a puncture wound) or from within the body, such as a rupture of lung tissue due to advanced lung disease.

Cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited condition that causes obstruction of the airways due to excessive production of mucus in the lungs. Although it is not primarily an inflammatory condition, it is often complicated by inflammation of the airways and a predisposition to lung infections .

Cystic fibrosis is a chronic, lifelong disease whose symptoms can change over time, as can inflammation in the lungs.


Pericarditis is an inflammation of the sac that surrounds the heart and can spread to the lungs. Pericarditis can develop due to infection or non-infectious inflammation of the heart .

This serious condition usually causes sharp or stabbing chest pains that are aggravated by deep breathing or coughing. The hallmark of pericarditis is that sitting forward bends over to relieve chest pain.

Pulmonary embolism (PE)

PD is a blood clot in the lungs. These blood clots can vary in size. Large PD is a life-threatening problem. Although inflammation is not the first problem in PD, your lungs may become inflamed a second time due to damage caused by decreased blood flow.

Lung cancer

Cancer that starts in the lungs or spreads to the lungs from elsewhere can cause inflammation. Cancer in the lungs causes a number of problems, including bleeding, airway obstruction, and pain. All of these lung cancer complications can lead to inflammation and can also be made worse by inflammation.


A diagnosis of pneumonia includes a physical exam and careful evaluation of your symptoms. Since there are so many causes of pneumonia, the choice of diagnostic tests is based on which one is most likely to be helpful in your case.

Associated symptoms, such as fever, chest pain, or joint pain, can help guide your healthcare team to the next stages of the diagnostic evaluation, as they can help narrow down potential diagnoses worth investigating. first.

Eliminate an emergency

Most importantly, your healthcare provider will determine if your condition poses an immediate threat to your health or is more of a chronic problem.

Initial diagnostic strategies include a physical exam that assesses your breathing rate and effort. Your healthcare provider will look for signs such as shortness of breath and if you are using accessory muscles to breathe, such as your neck muscles. These signs indicate that you may be at risk for a sudden worsening of the condition and may soon need respiratory support, even before the cause of the pneumonia is identified.

In addition, your oxygen level will be monitored using a pulse oximeter , an arterial blood gas analysis, or both. Low oxygen saturation suggests an urgent need for intervention, such as supplemental oxygen .

Diagnostic tests

Chest computed tomography (CT) , an imaging test that allows you to visualize the chest and lungs, is a common method of evaluating chest injuries, inflammatory lung diseases, and serious lung infections.

Ventilation / perfusion (V / Q) examination is the test of choice to evaluate PD. And lung function tests measure your breathing capacity, which can be affected by pneumonia.

If you are concerned that your symptoms are due to heart disease, you may need an electrocardiogram (EKG) , blood tests to measure heart enzymes, and / or an echocardiogram .

Watch out

Treatment of pneumonia is often complex and involves a combination of several symptom reduction strategies and disease-modifying approaches. Treatment for pneumonia may include emergency breathing assistance, anti-inflammatory medications such as inhaled corticosteroids, and / or surgery as needed.

Urgent handling

Although inflammation is treatable, respiratory emergencies often require interventions to quickly deliver oxygen to the lungs because lung dysfunction can be harmful or even fatal.

Supplemental oxygen can help when your oxygen saturation is low and you can breathe on your own. In more serious situations, you may need respiratory assistance to make breathing easier. This can include airway pressure or intubation.

These measures are generally considered temporary, as the goal is for you to breathe on your own rather than relying on mechanical support to keep you in bed (and in the hospital). However, some people with chronic inflammatory lung disease need to use oxygen therapy at home for a long time.

Mechanical ventilation and oxygen supplementation do not help reduce pneumonia. Rather, they help prevent low oxygen levels while your inflammation is under control.

Anti-inflammatory drugs

Inhaled corticosteroids are often used to control inflammation in asthma and COPD. Systemic inflammation is often treated with oral or administered anti-inflammatories. Prescription anti-inflammatories can reduce inflammation and prevent symptoms.

If you have severe pneumonia, you may need a course of antibiotics to get rid of the infection, and anti-inflammatories are sometimes used as well. But anti-inflammatories can increase the risk of infection, so they are not always the right choice, even in situations of extensive pneumonia.

Individual treatments

Often, individualized treatment is needed to address the underlying disease (in addition to anti-inflammatory drugs). For example, if your pneumonia is caused by PE, you will likely need a blood thinner or an interventional procedure.

Antibiotics are often needed to treat bacterial pneumonia, and other antimicrobials are used when the inflammation is caused by a fungal infection or a parasite. Chemotherapy may be prescribed for lung cancer.

These treatments do not directly reduce inflammation, but they do help address the underlying cause of the inflammation.

Procedures and Surgery

If you've had lung damage due to injury, disease, or cancer, an interventional procedure can help. Procedures can correct some types of lung damage, such as damage from a deep penetration wound. Surgery can remove harmful materials such as glass or metal and repair tears in tissue or blood vessels to stop bleeding and promote optimal healing.

Surgery may also be required to remove an area of the lung that has been severely affected by a medical condition, such as cancer or COPD. Generally, lung surgery to treat cancer involves removing cancers with minimal damage to healthy areas of the lungs. Surgery for COPD involves the removal of severely damaged areas of the lung that block the passage of air in healthy areas of the lung.

Get the word of drug information

Inflammation of the lungs is an important aspect of many lung diseases. Inflammation of the lungs not only contributes to respiratory symptoms, it also causes slow, irreversible damage to the lungs over time. Even if you feel like you can tolerate some of your symptoms (such as a chronic cough), it is important to seek medical attention to avoid further damage to your lungs.

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