Pneumocystis Pneumonia

(PCP)

Definition

Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) is a form of pneumonia. It affects people who have a weakened immune system. PCP is the most common serious infection among people with AIDS.
The Lungs (Cut-away View)
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Causes

PCP is caused by a fungus. Most believe that the fungus is spread in the air, but it is not clear if the fungus lives in soil or elsewhere. In healthy people, the fungus can exist in the lungs without causing pneumonia. However, in people who have a weakened immune system, the fungus can spread and cause a lung infection.

Risk Factors

A weakened immune system can put you at risk for PCP. The immune system may be weakened in people who:
  • Have AIDS
  • Have cancer
  • Are getting treatment for cancer
  • Are using medications that may weaken the immune system, such as steroids
  • Have a history of PCP infection

Symptoms

Symptoms of PCP usually develop over the course of a few weeks or months. The main symptoms of PCP are:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Tightness or pain in the chest
  • Weakness
See your doctor immediately if you have any these symptoms.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. To confirm PCP, a sample of mucus from your lungs will be examined under the microscope. Your doctor will collect samples by giving you either:

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