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Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia

What is it?

Pneumocystis (new-mo-sis-tis) carinii (kuh-rin-e-i) pneumonia (new-moan-yuh) is also known as "PCP". PCP is an infection that clogs up the lungs which makes it hard to breathe. Pneumocystis carinii usually attacks the lungs but can infect the rest of your body. PCP is the most common AIDS infection.

Causes:

  • PCP is caused by a germ that lives normally in many peoples' bodies. But, the germ does not make them sick because their immune system is strong. The immune system protects us from disease. Diseases like HIV weaken your immune system so the germ becomes active and can cause PCP. The germ is spread in the air from person to person by breathing or coughing.
  • If you have a weak immune system, your doctor may have given you medicine to prevent this infection. The germ may have "taken hold" because you did not take your medicine on schedule. The germ may have changed and is no longer killed by this medicine. This is called "resistance" or "a resistant organism".

Signs and Symptoms:

Early signs may be breathing problems, slight fever, or a dry hacking cough. Your lips and nailbeds may be blue if you are having serious breathing problems. With time you become fatigued (tired) and may lose weight.

Care:

If you are having problems breathing, you may need to be put in the hospital or be treated at home. You will have tests to help caregivers decide how to treat you. Medicines may be used to prevent, delay, or treat your infection. It is very important to keep your immune system strong. To do this, eat healthy foods, get enough exercise and rest, and take any medicines given to you by your caregivers even if you feel well. Also, do not drink alcohol, smoke, or take drugs.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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