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What is Eosinophilic Pneumonia?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Images By: Thirteen Of Clubs, Lisa F. Young
  • Last Modified Date: 01 August 2018
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Eosinophilic pneumonia is a fairly unusual form of pneumonia caused by an immune reaction of the body. In this condition, white blood cells, called eosinophils, gather in the lungs in greater numbers, and this may result in three different forms of the condition. People can have an acute reaction, where white blood cell count is extremely high, and breathing is compromised to an extraordinary degree. Alternately, white blood cell count can be mildly elevated to barely elevated in chronic eosinophilic pneumonia, and this can cause lengthy response where people may have shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing that last for months and may become threatening to health without treatment. The third type is also considered mildly acute but the condition usually resolves without treatment in a few days.

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There are a number of causes of eosinophilic pneumonia. People may get it when they have parasitic infections with roundworms, or it can be the body’s immune or allergic reaction to taking certain medications like some antibiotics, drugs like naproxen sodium, or mood stabilizers/anticonvulsants such as carbamazepine (Tegretol®). Sometimes, fungal infections cause the increase in white blood cells or certain inhaled chemicals can also produce this form of pneumonia. In most cases these substances, especially fungi or parasites, aren’t found in the lungs; only the presence of a higher white blood count in the lungs is creating the damage, and that count may not be very high or noticeably elevated in mild acute reactions.

With a quick-onset mild form of eosinophilic pneumonia, symptoms may be slightly more aggravated than a cold, with coughing, low fever, and wheezing. People might get diagnosis, especially if they’ve recently traveled to any place where they might have encountered roundworms. Treatment isn’t necessarily indicated. If the condition develops suddenly with severe symptoms and breathing appears to compromised, doctors would evaluate potential causes, including any medications that might be causing an immune reaction. They’re likely to discontinue any suspect medications while giving anti-inflammatory drugs like prednisone to calm inflammation in the lungs and possibly other drugs that provide breathing support.

Chronic cases, which can become severe suddenly, may have mild symptoms at first like coughing or wheezing, but these may not interfere too much with daily activities. Again, consideration of potential causes of eosinophil elevation is valuable to stop the immune response, and some medications could be discontinued if they are indicated in the disease. Prednisone or other anti-inflammatories could be considered for treatment because sometimes, chronic eosinophilic pneumonia can develop into a suddenly life-threatening illness where breathing is severely compromised.

It makes sense to see a doctor if symptoms of wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath are occurring with regularity. These could indicate a variety of conditions, and if people have recently been taking medications, traveled to tropical areas, or had exposure to fungi or chemical fumes, eosinophilic pneumonia could be a possible cause. Since the condition can become suddenly serious or last a long period of time, early intervention is recommended.

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