Pneumonia can be hard to diagnose as the symptoms are often similar to cold or flu. Symptoms in the extremes of age such as in newborns and infants, and elderly may not show the typical signs of the infection. Hence it may not be apparent in many patients that they have a more serious condition. The doctor will diagnose pneumonia based on detailed medical history, physical exam, and laboratory investigations. Read to know more on diagnosis of pneumonia.
Medical History: The doctor will take a detailed history about your signs and symptoms, such as how and when it started. To diagnose which type of germ is causing the pneumonia, the doctor may enquire about certain details such as travel history, your hobbies, exposure to pets and other animals, and exposure to sick people at home, school or work. Share with your doctor your past and current medical conditions, your medication and vaccination history, and if you smoke.
Physical Examination: Your doctor will do a general and systemic examination. During the general examination he will note your temperature, pulse rate, and blood pressure. In the systemic examination he will listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. In pneumonia, the lungs may make extra sounds such as crackling, bubbling, and rumbling sounds when breathing in.
Diagnostic Tests: Some diagnostic tests which your doctor may recommend for detection of pneumonia include:
- Chest x ray: It is a painless test that is considered best for diagnosing pneumonia. It helps to create images of the structures inside your chest, such as the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. The image of the lung helps to diagnose pneumonia but it does not indicate the kind of germ that is causing pneumonia.
- Blood Tests: Tests of the blood sample taken from a vein in your body may be done. The tests that may be done include complete blood count (CBC) to know the number of white blood cells in the blood sample. This may show if you have a bacterial infection. Blood culture to determine if the infection is present in your bloodstream and the type of germ. This test may help to determine the most effective antibiotic to treat the infection.
- Chest computed tomography (CT) scan: It creates more precise pictures of the structures in your chest as compared to an X-ray. But the test is not done in all patients with suspected pneumonia. Your doctor may recommend CT scan if the diagnosis is not clear after chest X-ray and blood tests.
- Other Tests: Some other tests that such as sputum test, chest computed tomography (CT) scan, pulse oximetry, arterial blood gas analysis, and bronchoscopy may be recommended if you are in the hospital, have serious symptoms, if you are older, or if you have other health problems.
Your doctor will not recommend all the tests at the same time. Tests such as chest computed tomography (CT) scan, sputum test, pulse oximetry, arterial blood gas analysis, and bronchoscopy are done if the cause of symptoms cannot be diagnosed by physical examination and chest X-ray.
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