Pneumonia - weakened immune system
Pneumonia is a lung infection. It can be caused by many different germs, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
This article discusses pneumonia that occurs in a person who has a hard time fighting off infection because of problems with the immune system. This type of disease is called "pneumonia in an immunocompromised host."
Related conditions include:
Pneumonia in immunodeficient patient; Pneumonia - immunocompromised host; Cancer - pneumonia; Chemotherapy - pneumonia; HIV - pneumonia
People whose immune system is not working well are less able to fight off germs. This makes them prone to infections from germs that do not often cause disease in healthy people. They are also more vulnerable to regular causes of pneumonia, which can affect anyone.
Your immune system may be weakened or not work well because of:
Symptoms may include:
Other symptoms that may occur:
Exams and Tests
Your health care provider may hear crackles or other abnormal breath sounds when listening to your chest with a stethoscope. Decreased volume of breath sounds is a key sign. This finding may mean there is a buildup of fluid between the chest wall and lung (pleural effusion).
Tests may include:
Antibiotics or antifungal medicines may be used, depending on the type of germ that is causing the infection. Antibiotics are not helpful for viral infections. You may need to stay in the hospital during the early stages of the illness.
Oxygen and treatments to remove fluid and mucus from the respiratory system are often needed.
Factors that may lead to a worse outcome include:
Complications may include:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if you have a weakened immune system and you have symptoms of pneumonia.
If you have a weakened immune system, you may receive daily antibiotics to prevent some types of pneumonia.
Ask your provider if you should receive the influenza (flu) and pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccines.
Practice good hygiene. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water:
Other things you can do to reduce your exposure to germs include:
Chan KM, Gomersall CD. Pneumonia. In: Bersten AD, Soni N, eds. Oh's Intensive Care Manual. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2014:chap 36.
Donnelly JP, Blijlevens NMA, van der Velden WJFM. Infections in the immunocompromised host: general principles. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 309.
Marr KA. Approach to fever and suspected infection in the compromised host. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 281.
Review Date: 5/18/2017
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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