Silent Pneumonia and Coronavirus

Silent pneumonia is usually detected by measuring the blood's oxygen saturation or by chest x-rays. It's a possible complication of the COVID-19 infection.
Silent Pneumonia and Coronavirus
Leonardo Biolatto

Written and verified by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 15 December, 2022

The coronavirus is the virus responsible for the pandemic that has shaken the whole world. Its wide range of symptoms means that it’s often difficult to identify whether someone has the infection or not. One such difficulty surrounds a symptom known as silent pneumonia.

Silent pneumonia means that people who are infected with the virus don’t feel short of breath, even though their bodies are getting less and less oxygen. This is a great risk because it makes it more difficult to detect the infection.

The new coronavirus is challenging all scientists and health care providers. We must stay alert and keep informed about the characteristics that scientists and doctors are discovering. In this article, we’ll go into more detail about silent pneumonia.

What is a coronavirus infection?

Coronaviruses are actually a family of viruses. The new coronavirus appeared in December 2019 in the city of Wuhan. It’s a virus that has formed from a mutation. So, despite all the research currently being done, scientists still need to carry out a lot more research about it.

It spreads through respiratory droplets that we expel when we cough, sneeze or even talk. These droplets can reach another person or even remain on surfaces for some time.

The problem with this virus is that it’s very contagious. The truth is that many people have no symptoms, but mortality in the elderly or people with a weakened immune system is very high.

Coronavirus with water.

What is silent pneumonia?

Silent pneumonia is one of the big problems that the coronavirus is causing. It happens when people don’t experience problems breathing despite having coronavirus and very low levels of oxygen in their blood.

Normally, when someone has low oxygen levels or needs to be connected to machines to aid their breathing, they’re in a state of shock. In these situations, it’s normal to have difficulties breathing or for the body to activate mechanisms to protect itself.

However, with silent pneumonia, the opposite is true. In several hospitals in New York and Brazil, they’ve observed that there were many patients with silent pneumonia who appeared to be well. However, they were found to have it by measuring oxygen levels in their blood or by having a chest X-ray.

The problem is that this situation of hypoxia progresses without the patient being aware of it. As a result, many people have died suddenly from the coronavirus infection.

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What’s the explanation?

Unfortunately, the truth is that doctors and scientists haven’t found an explanation for silent pneumonia yet. Some doctors believe that the coronavirus, by attacking the lung cells, causes certain changes that make the lung still able to expel carbon dioxide but not obtain oxygen.

It’s the high concentrations of carbon dioxide that cause the brain to sense this “lack of air.” When the person expels it relatively normally, then the brain doesn’t receive any notification that there’s a lack of oxygen.

Another hypothesis is that everyone has a different tolerance for blood oxygen levels. This could mean that, in some people, it may not be possible to detect that their oxygen saturation is low naturally until it’s well below the proper level and has reached dangerous levels. Experts even think that this may be related to the virus’s ability to create thrombosis.

One way or another, the important thing here is to keep in mind that silent pneumonia exists.

So, if you suspect you may have coronavirus, then we recommend that doctors measure your oxygen saturation levels and even take a chest X-ray. This is especially important if you have had contact with someone who is infected or in the cases of people who are more at risk.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.