Pneumonia is a type of infection that causes the air sacs to become inflamed in either one or both lungs. Coughs with phlegm or pus, chills, fever, and breathing problems can occur when the air sacs fill with pus or fluid (purulent material). Pneumonia can occur due to various organisms, such as bacteria, fungus, and viruses.
The severity of pneumonia can range from minor to fatal. Infants and younger children, persons over the age of 65, and those with medical problems or compromised immune systems are the most vulnerable.
Signs and Symptoms of Pneumonia
Pneumonia symptoms and signs range from moderate to severe. This usually depends on the kind of germ that is causing the illness, as well as the person’s overall health and age. The moderate signs and symptoms are sometimes mistaken for those of the flu or cold. However, they tend to persist for an extended period.
The following are some of the common pneumonia signs and symptoms:
- Chest pain whenever you cough or breathe.
- Changes in mental awareness or confusion, especially in adults aging 65 and above
- Coughing that comes with phlegm
- Fever, sweat, and shivering chills
- Body temperature that is lower than average, especially in adults above the age of 65 and those with weak or compromised immune systems.
- Feeling nauseated, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Breathing problems
Pneumonia in babies might sometimes go undetected. Alternatively, they can portray the following symptoms;
- Headache with vomiting Looking restless
- Coughing or having a fever
- Feeling exhausted and depleted of energy
- Have breathing and eating difficulties
Causes of Pneumonia
Various infectious agents can lead to pneumonia. The body's immune system prevents and fights off these agents from infecting the lungs. Even though your overall health is typically strong, these pathogens can sometimes overwhelm the immune system.
The most common types of pathogens that cause pneumonia include;
Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia. This kind of pneumonia can develop on its own or as a result of flu or cold. It can also infect just one lobe of the lung, which is known as lobar pneumonia.
Other possible causes of bacterial pneumonia include Haemophilus influenza, mycoplasma pneumoniae, and legionella pneumophila.
Pneumonia can occur from the respiratory viruses that cause the flu and colds. The common examples are respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza (flu), and rhinoviruses (common cold).
Viruses are typically the leading cause of pneumonia among young children under the age of five. In most cases, viral pneumonia is a minor illness that improves after one or three weeks without any treatment. However, in other situations, it can be quite severe.
Individuals with serious health issues or weak immune systems, as well as those who have inhaled massive amounts of the organisms, are more likely to get this type of pneumonia. The fungi that usually cause it could be present in the soil or bird droppings. Their symptoms may also differ depending on where you live.
Fungi that might cause pneumonia include Pneumocystis jirovecii, histoplasmosis species, and Cryptococcus species.
Types of Pneumonia
Pneumonia is categorized based on the germ that causes it and where the infection occurred. They include;
The most prevalent type of pneumonia is community-acquired pneumonia. It happens outside of hospitals setting and other medical facilities. Bacteria, viruses, or fungi could bring it on.
Some patients get pneumonia while in the hospital for another reason. Since the bacterium that causes it may be more resistant to medications and the people who catch it are already ill, hospital-acquired pneumonia could be chronic. This form of pneumonia is more common in those who use breathing devices (ventilators), commonly employed in intensive care units.
Health care-acquired pneumonia:
Those individuals who stay in long-term care homes or get treatment in outpatient facilities, such as kidney dialysis clinics, might contract healthcare-acquired pneumonia. Health-care-acquired pneumonia, just like hospital-acquired pneumonia, might occur from antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
If you inhale a drink, food, vomit, or even saliva into the lungs, you can get aspiration pneumonia. When anything disrupts your usual gag response, like brain damage or swallowing issue, you're more likely to have aspiration if you drink or use drugs excessively.
Risk Factors of Pneumonia
Pneumonia can strike anyone at any time. However, the age groups at high risk include;
- Children under the age of two years
- People above the age of 65
Other potential risk factors of pneumonia bacterial or viral are;
- Chronic illness
- Being hospitalized
- Weak or suppressed body immune system
During pneumonia diagnosis, the healthcare provider will begin by gathering information about your medical history. They will inquire about the onset of the symptoms as well as your overall health. Also, they will conduct a physical examination on you. This could involve using a stethoscope to listen to the lungs for any unusual noises, like crackling.
If necessary, the doctor might as well prescribe one or more additional tests. This will depend on the seriousness of the symptoms and the complication risks.
Chest x-ray: The doctor can use an x-ray to check for symptoms of inflammation within the chest. If there is inflammation, the x-ray will also tell your doctor where it is and how severe it is.
Blood culture: This diagnostic test involves using a blood sample to verify the pneumonia infection. Culturing might also be helpful in figuring out what's causing the problem in question.
Sputum culture: After coughing deeply, a sample of the mucus is taken for a sputum culture. The sample is then taken to the laboratory for testing in order to determine the source of the infection.
Pulse oximetry: This is a method to measure the oxygen level in the blood. It involves putting a sensor on one of the fingertips to determine if the lungs are pumping sufficient oxygen into the system.
Computerized tomography (CT) scan: Doctors use CT scans to obtain a more accurate and detailed image of the lungs.
Pleural fluid culture: This test involves taking a fluid sample from the pleural area by inserting a needle between the ribs. The sample is then tested to check the type of pneumonia infection.
Bronchoscopy: This is a procedure that examines the air pathways in the lungs. A camera attached to the tip of a flexible tube is gently moved down through the throat and into the lungs during bronchoscopy. If the early symptoms of infection are severe, or if you are in the hospital and antibiotics aren't working, your doctor might order this test.
Pneumonia Treatment Options
Pneumonia treatment focuses on eradicating the illness while also preventing possible complications. Patients with community-acquired pneumonia can be treated with medications while at home. While most infection-associated symptoms subside after some days or weeks, exhaustion can last for a month or even longer.
Pneumonia treatment options are determined by the type and seriousness of the infection, including age and overall health. The available alternatives can include;
Antibiotics: These are the medications that doctors prescribe to address bacterial pneumonia. Identifying the kind of bacteria that causes pneumonia and selecting the right antibiotic to cure it might take some time. Therefore, the doctor can suggest different antibiotics if the symptoms do not improve.
Cough medications: Doctors can recommend this medicine to enable you to rest by calming your cough. It's always a great idea not to entirely stop the coughing because it assists in loosening and moving fluid away from the lungs.
Pain killers and fever relievers: Take these drugs as prescribed if you have a fever or are in pain. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), ibuprofen, and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are examples of these medications.
In a situation where the symptoms are intense, or you have other medical issues, you might require hospitalization. Doctors will monitor your heart rate, breathing, and temperature while in the hospital. The following are examples of hospital treatments:
- Antibiotics administered intravenously through the vein.
- To improve your oxygenation, you may need respiratory treatment, which involves administering certain drugs directly into the lungs or showing you how to do breathing exercises.
- Maintaining oxygen levels within the bloodstream using oxygen treatment. This can be given through a nasal tube, ventilator, or face mask, depending on the seriousness.
Complications of Pneumonia
Some patients with pneumonia, particularly those under high-risk groups, may develop complications even with proper treatment. These complications include;
- Bacteria within the bloodstream (bacteremia)
- Breathing difficulties, especially if you have severe pneumonia or severe underlying lung conditions.
- Lung abscess due to the pus formation in the lung cavity
- Build up of fluids in the lungs; pleural effusion
Pneumonia is an infection caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi. It can affect one or both lungs resulting in inflammation of the air paths and filling the mucus in the air sacs. Pneumonia also ranges from moderate (flu and cold-like) to severe depending on the germ causing it, age, and general health.
With prompt and competent treatment, otherwise healthy people often recover faster. On the other hand, pneumonia is a dangerous illness that, if left untreated, can be fatal, especially in people who are predisposed to it.