About the disease
A lung abscess is a collection of pus in the lung tissue, which develops as a result of a bacterial infection. Diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia are among the predisposing factors that lead to the accumulation of pus in the lungs. Alcoholism is also one of the leading causes of a lung abscess.
There are two types of lung abscess: primary and secondary. A primary lung abscess can develop as a result of bacterial infections, such as pneumonia. Secondary lung abscesses can develop because of adverse breathing conditions, when foreign matter in inhaled. Alcoholism is the most common cause of secondary lung abscesses: intoxication usually results in vomiting, thereby increasing the likelihood that bacteria from the stomach will enter the lungs. This bacteria is not harmful when it is in the stomach, but when it gets into the lungs it can be quite damaging, especially when it is inhaled on a regular basis.
Individuals who are addicted to alcohol or drugs often have a weak immune system, making them more susceptible to various infections. An additional problem of frequent binge drinking is losing consciousness on a regular basis, which greatly undermines the immune system. People with HIV or autoimmune conditions are also in the at-risk group. Having a lung abscess causes the sufferer to cough all the time; they also tend to cough up masses that are bloody or resemble pus. At this point, it is a medical emergency, requiring immediate attention.
- Continuous cough
- Foul breath
- Chest pain
- Muscle pain
- Weight loss
- Excessive sweating
- During a general examination, the doctor will ask the patient about their medical history, with particular attention to previous surgical procedures (which could have exposed the patient to an infection), and whether they have ever suffered from pneumonia or tuberculosis.
- The doctor will enquire about the amount of alcohol the patient drinks, as frequent binge drinking can weaken the immune system.
- A sputum test, whereby the mixture of saliva and mucus that is coughed up is examined under the microscope, can determine the type of infection the patient has contracted. It can also find out if there is any pus in the lungs.
- Imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI scan, can show if pus is collecting in the lungs. This can indicate the presence of a lung abscess.
- Blood tests can be useful in finding out which type of infection the patient has contracted, if this is still unclear.
- Conservative treatment, such as a course of antibiotics, aims to kill the bacteria and eliminate all signs of pus in the lungs. Antibiotics need to be taken regularly for a fixed period of time to be effective.
- Pus can be drained from the lungs using a special tube.
- Partial or wedge resection is performed when part of the lung tissue is damaged to the point that it needs to be removed.
- Lung resection is performed in the most severe cases, when it is impossible to restore lung function. If both lungs are extremely damaged, a lung transplant may be necessary to save the patient’s life.