Mycoplasma pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae (M. pneumoniae).
M. pneumoniae is a common cause of mild pneumonia that usually affects people younger than 40. Various studies suggest that it causes 15-50% of all pneumonia in adults and an even higher percentage of pneumonia in school-aged children.
People at highest risk for mycoplasma pneumonia include those living or working in crowded areas such as schools and homeless shelters, although many people who contract mycoplasma pneumonia have no identifiable risk factor.
The symptoms are generally mild and appear over a period of 1 to 3 weeks. They may become more severe in some people.
Common symptoms include the following:
- Fever (may be high)
- Excessive sweating
- Usually dry
- Usually without phlegm or blood
- Chest pain
- Sore throat
Less frequently seen symptoms include:
- Skin lesions or rash
- Eye pain or soreness
- Muscle aches and joint stiffness
- Neck lump
- Rapid breathing
- Ear pain
Exams and Tests
A physical examination may reveal enlarged lymph nodes and inflammation of the eardrum. An examination of the chest with a stethoscope (auscultation) reveals crackles.
These tests help confirm the diagnosis:
- Blood tests for antibodies to mycoplasma
- Sputum culture
- Chest x-ray
Antibiotics may be prescribed for more serious symptoms related to mycoplasma pneumonia. Home care includes rest and a high-protein diet with adequate fluids.
Most people recover completely even without antibiotics, although antibiotics may speed recovery. In untreated adults, cough and weakness can persist for up to a month.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms of mycoplasma pneumonia occur. Also, call if you have been treated for this disorder and symptoms of complications develop.
Infants and people in poor health, especially those with weakened immune systems due to HIV, organ transplants, or other conditions, should avoid contact with people with mycoplasma pneumonia.