Have you ever had a cold that caused you to have nasal discharge? Colds are fairly common, and can be caused by germs in the air we breathe. Empyema is similar in that it has a germy fluid, but it is created by an infection in an internal cavity.
What Is Empyema?
Empyema is a condition that causes pus to collect in a body cavity, usually in the lung cavity. While it is possible for pus to build up in other body cavities, it is not common. Pus, or fluid created from an infection, increases as the body fights and is stored in the body cavity, or in this case the pleural cavity. The pleural cavity is the space between the outside of the lungs and the chest wall. Lung infections are common due to how easy germs can enter the lungs. When pus builds up around the lung, it becomes difficult for the lung to expand when you inhale.
The difficulty in lung expansion can cause pain when you inhale and can lead to shortness of breath as you try to avoid breathing as deeply. This pain is known as pleurisy and should lead to a doctor's care. Other symptoms that can help determine if you have lung empyema include dry cough, excessive sweating, fever, general discomfort and unintentional weight loss. Lung empyema is generally referred to as pleural empyema, as it occurs in the pleural space or cavity.
Empyema is caused by other factors occurring in the body. Most often, it starts in the lung through infections or chest surgery. Less common reasons for pleural empyema is lung abscess or injury to the chest. Infections that are not thoroughly cured or that are difficult to cure can cause empyema as a complication of the infection. Difficult infections come from many sources, such as bacterial pneumonia or cancer. Cancer can cause empyema through the body's lack of natural immunity after various cancer therapies, which allow bacteria to grow easier. While the body is fighting the infection, pus can form around the lung. Since cancer is not the only time the body is immunocompromised, empyema can also occur whenever a person has a weakened or compromised immune system.
In the case of chest trauma or lung abscess, the body is attempting to heal itself from an external blow to the body, and fluid builds up in the pleural space. This fluid either has infection or becomes infected, resulting in empyema.
While medical care is needed for the fluid build up, treatment needs to be balanced and must address the associated chest trauma. In a chest injury, it is likely that broken bones exist and require stabilization and potential surgery. Once the bones are stable, infections can be addressed with appropriate antibiotics and fluid can naturally be removed from the pleural cavity.
Fortunately, most empyema cases are not associated with trauma, and do not result in broken bones, so treatment can focus on the infection. With a focus on the infection and related pus, treatment is dedicated to curing the infection and reducing the fluid created. Antibiotics will kill the bacteria, allowing the body to decrease its creation of cells to fight the infection and its related fluid. This will allow the body to remove the fluid through natural processes. Normally, when the infection is addressed, the fluid will slowly be removed from the chest cavity and no further treatment is needed.
However, if there is too much fluid before the infection is addressed, fluid may need to be removed separately from normal body processes. This would be determined by a chest x-ray or possibly from CT. CT, or computed tomography, is an imaging method that uses special x-rays to create images of various areas of the body. A CT scan of the lung can show how much fluid is in the chest cavity. If too much fluid is found, that means a needle will be used using to remove the fluids. This is a special needle for the lung called a chest tube, and a doctor must perform this procedure.
Empyema causes pus to collect in a body cavity, usually in the lung cavity. It is a serious condition that needs medical attention before external procedures, such as chest tubes, are used to drain the fluid. Lung empyema is also known as pleural empyema. With medical intervention, such as antibiotics, empyema can be treated without further medical procedures, but it must be treated in a timely manner.
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