Pneumonia is a respiratory condition in which the air sacs of one or both the lungs are inflamed with fluid or pus. It is a contagious condition which may affect another person who is in contact with pneumonia patient. It can be mild to life threatening. It is mostly serious in young children or older people above the age of 60, and people with other health problems or weak immune system.
Pneumonia can be caused by a variety of bacteria, fungi, or viruses.
- The most common type of pneumonia causing bacteria is Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus)
- Atypical Pneumonia, also called walking pneumonia, is caused by other bacteria.
- A fungus called Pneumocystis jiroveci can cause pneumonia in people with weak immune system, particularly people with advanced HIV infection.
- Flu virus is also a common cause of pneumonia.
These organisms living in your nose, sinuses, or mouth may spread to your lungs, or you may inhale these organisms directly into the lungs.
Types of Pneumonia
The classification is based on the place and mode of acquiring the pneumonia.
- Hospital- acquired pneumonia: Bacterial pneumonia acquired during hospital stay. More threatening as bacteria is more resistant to antibiotics.
- Community- acquired pneumonia: Acquired outside a medical institution.
- Ventilator- associated pneumonia: Acquired when a person is put on a ventilator.
- Aspiration pneumonia: Caused when bacteria is inhaled into the lungs via food, drinks, and saliva.
The symptoms may vary from mild to severe, depending on age, health, type of organism infecting the body. The general symptoms include: –
- Constant cough, sometimes producing phlegm
- Chest pain while breathing or coughing
- Fever, sweating, and chills
- Diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath, even while doing normal activities or resting
Older people may exhibit a confused state of mind and may experience a lower body temperature than usual.
The risk of pneumonia is high in the following cases: –
- Chronic lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
- Brain injury, cerebral palsy, stroke, or other disorders of the brain.
- Weak immunity (during cancer treatment, HIV/AIDS etc.)
- Surgery for treating cancer of mouth, throat or neck.
- Heart diseases, liver cirrhosis or diabetes.
Even with treatment some people may experience the following serious complications.
- Bacteria may enter the bloodstream from the lungs and spread to other organs, causing organ failure.
- Breathing difficulty may increase and the patient needs to be hospitalized and put on a ventilator.
- An abscess may occur in the lungs. It may be treated by antibiotics or by surgery or drainage by using a long needle or a tube placed in the abscess to remove the pus.
- Vaccines are available for some kinds of pneumonia which should be taken after consulting the doctor.
- Oral antibiotics prescribed by the doctor should be taken and full course of medication should be completed even if the patient is feeling better.
- Antibiotics don’t usually work in cases of viral pneumonia. In such cases doctors may prescribe an anti- viral.
- Anti- fungal medications are prescribed for fungal pneumonia, which may take several weeks to cure.
- If the symptoms are severe there is a need for hospitalization. The hospital treatment includes: –
- Intravenous antibiotics injected into the veins
- Respiratory therapy involving administering specific medications directly into the lungs or teaching the patient to perform breathing exercises to maximize the oxygen transport.
- Oxygen therapy to regulate oxygen levels in the bloodstream (received through a nasal tube, face mask, or ventilator, depending on severity).
- The doctors may also recommend the medications for fever and pain, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, and cough medicines.
- Recovery can be catalysed by taking rest and drinking plenty of fluids.