Pneumonia

By:    Published: May 10, 2012

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Pneumonia is a condition that causes the lungs to become inflamed as a result of a bacterial, fungal or viral infection. Normally, a person’s lungs filter out any germs that are being inhaled along with the air being breathed. Pneumonia occurs when these germs find a way into the lungs, causing the lung’s air sacs to become filled with pus and fluid. The end result is a host of symptoms commonly associated with this respiratory disease.

How Pneumonia Affects Your Body

Pneumonia affects a person’s lung in two different ways:

  • Lobar pneumonia: this is when an entire section of a lung is infected.
  • Bronchial pneumonia: this is when patches throughout both lungs become infected.

When a person is suffering from pneumonia, the flow of oxygen to the blood is inhibited. This lack of oxygen causes other parts of the body to malfunction. As the infection continues to spread, more and more parts of the body begin to stop working properly, which can eventually lead to death. Pneumonia can be a very serious condition for people aged 65 and older, young children and infants, and those suffering from chronic health issues or have a weakened immune system.

Symptoms

Symptoms of pneumonia can vary in intensity, where they may start off mild and slowly escalate towards unbearable conditions. Pneumonia can easily be confused with the flu since both conditions share many similar symptoms.

People with pneumonia typically experience:

  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Enlarged lymph glands
  • Cyanosis (blue nails)
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty breathing

Those suffering who are suffering from persistent coughing bouts, chest pains, fever and difficult breathing should seek medical attention. Individuals who are more at risk of seeing pneumonia turn into a life-threatening condition should also contact their physician immediately upon the first signs and symptoms of pneumonia.

Causes And Risk Factors

Although there can be numerous causes for pneumonia, the most common viruses or bacteria present in a person’s environment. For example, bacteria living in a person’s nose, mouth or sinuses may spread to the lungs, or a person might directly inhale germs into his or her lungs.

Pneumonia caused by germs encountered during normal, day-to-day activities is referred to as community-acquired pneumonia. This form of pneumonia is typically simple to treat and does not require hospitalization.

However, severe pneumonia can be a major issue, especially within a health care facility. This type of pneumonia is referred to as health-care-acquired pneumonia, and can be caused by the following bacteria:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Legionella pneumophila
  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae
  • Chlamydophila pneumoniae
  • Pneumocystis jiroveci

These are just some of the bacteria that might cause health-care-acquired pneumonia. What makes this type of pneumonia so difficult to treat is the fact that the germs causing the infection are likely to be drug resistant, making treatment much more difficult. In a hospital setting, the main priority is to determine what is causing the infection to help determine the most effective

Test And Diagnosis

First, the doctor will listen to your lungs using a stethoscope. The doctor might ask you to cough in order to determine whether your breathing appears disrupted. After listening to your breathing, the doctor may choose to order additional tests.

Medical professionals use chest X-rays to diagnose pneumonia. This procedure can identify whether any fluid has accumulated in the lungs and whether breathing patterns appear disrupted.

A medical professional may need to drain excess liquid in order to facilitate air flow. It is important that you talk to your doctor and undergo tests immediately. If you suspect that you have pneumonia, you should not wait to see a doctor and pursue treatment.

Treatments

Pneumonia patients requiring hospitalization will receive:

  • Antibiotics and fluids that will go directly to the veins
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Treatments to help with breathing

Home treatment is also a viable option for those strong enough to recover on their own. A doctor will prescribe antibiotics to be used in conjunction with homecare. Other home treatment tips the doctor might recommend include:

  • Avoid cough and cold medicine. Coughing may actually help with pneumonia since it helps the body clear out any mucus from the lungs.
  • Take antibiotics regularly. Those undergoing home treatment should not miss any doses and should continue to take antibiotics until they are completely gone, even if symptoms have already subsided.
  • Breathe in warm, moist air to release mucus. A humidifier or a warm, wet towel placed over the nose and mouth can help if the patient feels like he or she is choking.
  • Do not smoke. Not only does smoking increase the risk of pneumonia, it allows makes symptoms more severe. In fact, everyone in the home should refrain from smoking while the pneumonia patient recovers.
  • Drink 6 to 10 cups of healthy fluids. This includes tea, juice and water; alcohol should not be consumed during recovery.
  • Rest as much as possible. If sleeping at night is an issue due to pneumonia symptoms, frequent naps should be taken during the day.

(For those looking for information on pneumococcal vaccination, read Using The Pneumonia Vaccine.)

Treatment can begin after a physician has determined whether or not the patient requires hospitalization. Those with a weakened immune system due to a serious medical condition, those suffering severe symptoms, and other individuals with an increased health risk will most likely require hospitalization for pneumonia.

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