Pneumonitis describes general inflammation of lung tissue. Possible causative agents include radiation therapy of the chest, exposure to medications used during chemo-therapy, the inhalation of debris (e.g., animal dander), aspiration, herbicides or fluorocarbons and some systemic diseases. If unresolved, continued inflammation can result in irreparable damage such as pulmonary fibrosis.
Pneumonitis is distinguished from pneumonia on the basis of causation as well as its manifestation. Pneumonia can be described as pneumonitis combined with consolidation and exudation of lung tissue due to infection with microorganisms. The distinction between Pneumonia and Pneumonitis can be further understood with Pneumonitis being the encapsulation of all respiratory infections (incorporating pneumonia and pulmonary fibrosis as major diseases), and pneumonia as a localized infection. For most infections, the immune response of the body is enough to control and apprehend the infection within a couple days, but if the tissue and the cells can't fight off the infection, the creation of pus will begin to form in the lungs which then hardens into lung abscess or suppurative pneumonitis. Patients that are immunodeficient and don't get treated immediately for any type of respiratory infection may lead to more severe infections and/or death.
Pneumonitis can be classified into several different specific subcategories, including hypersensitivity pneumonitis, radiation pneumonitis, acute interstitial pneumonitis, and chemical pneumonitis. These all share similar symptoms, but differ in causative agents. Diagnosis of pneumonitis remains challenging, but several different treatment paths (corticosteroids, oxygen therapy, avoidance) have seen success.