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Bilateral pneumonia, or double pneumonia, is a bacterial, viral or fungal infection that affects both lungs. Affected patients have fluid in the lungs and have difficulty breathing. Pneumonia is a serious condition that can lead to death if it remains untreated.
People of all ages can become infected with the pathogens that cause pneumonia. Older people, particularly those who have difficulty swallowing, are at higher risk than people in other age groups. People who use recreational drugs or who abuse alcohol might also contract bilateral pneumonia.
Individuals whose immune systems are compromised are often at higher risk of developing pneumonia than healthy individuals. People whose bodies are weakened from a recent bout with the flu or other lung infection might become ill. Individuals who suffer from seizures, strokes or heart conditions also are at risk.
The disease spreads when an infected person sneezes or coughs around other people. The pathogens enter the lungs and colonize the air sacs. The body sends white blood cells to attack the invaders. The lungs soon fill with liquids and pus, which is a thick fluid that forms when white blood cells accumulate in a part of the body.
An infected person often runs a high fevers. He or she might have a sore throats, chills and a productive cough that brings up discolored sputum. Some affected people have difficulty breathing or do not have the energy to complete their regular daily activities.
As the infection progresses, patients who have bilateral pneumonia sometimes develop a purplish or bluish tinge to their skin from a lack of oxygen. They might also suffer from chest pains. Some people hear a wheezing or rattling sound as they breathe in and out.
A medical practitioner diagnoses bilateral pneumonia by conducting a physical examination. He or she listens to the lungs with a stethoscope. The doctor might also look at the lungs by performing X-rays.
A doctor might perform blood tests to get a white blood cell count. Patients who have viral or fungal pneumonia have more of a type of white blood cell called lymphocytes, and people who have bacterial infections have more neutrophils. The doctor might also use sputum samples to determine whether the infection is caused by a bacteria, fungus or virus.
Doctors prescribe oral antibiotics for most cases of fungal and bacterial bilateral pneumonia. People can prevent pneumonia by getting a yearly flu vaccine, because pneumonia often follows the flu. They also can avoid pneumonia and other illnesses by eating a healthy diet, practicing good hygiene and getting enough sleep.