What is pneumocystis pneumonia?

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Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP): Overview

Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) is an infection of the lungs caused by a fungus called pneumocystis. People with healthy immune systems don't usually get infected with PCP. It becomes a problem only when you have a weak immune system that allows the fungus to cause infection. Your immune system can be weakened by such things as cancer, HIV or AIDS, or from the medicines you take after having a bone marrow or organ transplant.

Having PCP can make it hard for you to breathe and get enough oxygen into your blood. The infection can be serious, but many people can be treated at home with antibiotics.

You may also need oxygen therapy, which helps get more oxygen into your lungs and bloodstream.

How can you care for pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP)?

  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Don't stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you're having a problem with your medicine.
  • Get plenty of rest and sleep. You may feel weak and tired for a while, but your energy level will improve with time.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking damages your lungs and makes it harder to breathe. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

Pneumocystis pneumonia: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have new or worse trouble breathing.
  • You have a new symptom such as a rash.
  • You have a new or higher fever.
  • You cough up dark brown or bloody mucus (sputum).

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You are coughing more deeply or more often.
  • You are not getting better after 2 days (48 hours).
  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.