All You Need to Know about Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a type of lung infection. The infection causes the air sacks in one or both lungs to become inflamed. When this occurs, the air sacks get filled with pus or fluid which leads to a severe cough, fever, and difficulty in breathing. However, symptoms of pneumonia can vary depending on the cause of the infection.

Types of Pneumonia
The classification of pneumonia is done as per the location and the cause of the infection.

The most common type of pneumonia is community-acquired pneumonia. It refers to infection acquired outside of a hospital or medical setting.
If a patient becomes infected with germs causing pneumonia in a healthcare facility, it is termed as hospital-acquired pneumonia.
Aspiration pneumonia is referred to the infection that occurs due to inhalation of germs through food particles, liquid, saliva or vomit into the lungs. It can occur when someone has problem swallowing or has a brain injury affecting the gag reflex of the body. Excessive use of drugs or alcohol and even some medication use can disturb the body’s gag reflex.

Causes of Pneumonia

Many different types of organisms can cause pneumonia.

Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia. This type of infection usually occurs after a cold or flu, but it can also take place on its own.
Viral pneumonia usually occurs in children. It is often mild but can become severe depending on other health factors of the patient.
Fungi present in bird droppings or soil can cause pneumonia when the germs reach the lungs through inhalation. Fungal pneumonia can also occur in people with other health problems or a weak immune system.
Mycoplasma germs can cause pneumonia. These types of organisms have characteristics of both viruses and bacteria. Such cases are usually mild and can often be seen in older children.

Symptoms of pneumonia
Symptoms of pneumonia can be mild or severe because of several factors such as the cause, patient’s age, and overall health complication.

Common symptoms of pneumonia can include any of the following:

  • Fever and chills
  • A cough with or without phlegm
  • Chest pain
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite

    Severe symptoms may be displayed through

  • Panting or breathing heavily
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Cough with blood

Elderly people (patients over 65 years of age) with pneumonia can also have the following symptoms –

  • Low body temperature
  • Confusion

    Infants with pneumonia may at times not have any usual symptoms of pneumonia. But some signs which can be seen in them which are as follows:

  • Increased restlessness,
  • Crankiness
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Poor appetite
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Vomiting
  • Important considerations

The symptoms of pneumonia are similar to other types of chest infections or flu. This is why it is important to get a proper diagnosis from a doctor.

People with poor immunity must see a doctor immediately if they experience a persistent cough or fever. A weakened or sluggish immune system can be a result of any underlying medical problem. But it can also result from certain medications or chemotherapy.

There is an increased risk of complications from pneumonia to older people who suffer from any lung or heart problems.

Diagnosis of Pneumonia
Once any of the symptoms of pneumonia appear, it is vital to seek treatment without delay.

Diagnosis of pneumonia begins with a physical exam. This may include the doctor examining the lungs with a stethoscope to check for any abnormal sounds. The doctor may also ask about the patient’s medical history.
Based on the symptoms and the initial exam, the next diagnostic steps may include several tests. The actual tests may vary depending on the age of the patient and the severity of the symptoms.

A chest X-ray can confirm the diagnosis of pneumonia, but it cannot identify the type of germs that caused the infection.
Blood tests can not only confirm pneumonia but in most cases, can also reveal the germ type that caused the infection.
A sputum (fluid inside the lungs) test can help to identify the cause of pneumonia.
A pulse oximetry test checks levels of oxygen in the blood. This is done as pneumonia can hinder the movement of oxygen from the lungs to the bloodstream.
The doctor may order a CT scan in case of any severe symptoms of pneumonia or if the condition of the patient doesn’t improve with initial treatment.

Treatment of Pneumonia
Pneumonia can be treated in a number of ways and it all depends on the severity of the symptoms.

The doctor may prescribe antibiotics, fever reducers, pain relievers and cough medications. Hospitalization may be necessary if the symptoms of pneumonia become severe or do not improve over time. Pneumonia is treatable, but timely intervention is crucial. Even when the symptoms are mild, it is vital to seek a proper diagnosis to rule out any health complication from the infection.

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