Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs with a range of possible causes. It can be a serious and life-threatening disease. It normally starts with a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection.
The lungs become inflamed, and the tiny air sacs, or alveoli, inside the lungs fill up with fluid.
Here are some key points about this disease. More detail is in the main article.
- Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can cause mild to severe illness in people of all ages.
- It is the leading cause of death due to infection in children younger than 5 years of age worldwide.
- Pneumonia and influenza together are ranked as the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S.
- Those at high risk for this disease include older adults, the very young, and people with underlying health problems.
Cause of Pneumonia
Bacteria and viruses are the main causes of this disease. This disease-causing germs can settle in the alveoli and multiply after a person breathes them in.
Pneumonia can be contagious. The bacteria and viruses that cause pneumonia are usually inhaled. They can be passed on through coughing and sneezing or spread onto shared objects through touch.
The body sends white blood cells to attack the infection. This is why the air sacs become inflamed. The bacteria and viruses fill the lung sacs with fluid and pus, causing pneumonia.
Those most at risk include people who:
- Are aged under 5 years or over 65 years
- Smoke tobacco, consume large amounts of alcohol, or both
- have underlying conditions such as cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), asthma, or conditions that affect the kidneys, heart, or liver
- have a weakened or impaired immune system, due, for example, to AIDS, HIV, or cancer
- take medicines for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- have recently recovered from a cold or influenza infection
- experience malnutrition
- have been recently hospitalized in an intensive care unit
- have been exposed to certain chemicals or pollutants
There are two different vaccines to prevent this disease, the most common bacterial cause of pneumonia.
These cover a wide variety of pneumococcal infections and are recommended for both children and adults, So depending on their health conditions.
- pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, or Prevnar
- pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, or Pneumovax
A doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history and will carry out a physical examination.
They may suspect pneumonia if they hear coarse breathing, wheezing, crackling, or decreased breath sounds when listening to the chest through a stethoscope. The doctor may also check the oxygen levels in the blood with a painless monitor on the finger called a pulse oximeter.
- Chest X-rays
- CT scan
- Blood tests
- Blood cultures
- An arterial blood gas (ABG)
- A sputum analysis
Treatment of Pneumonia
Treatment depends on the type and severity of pneumonia.
- Bacterial types of pneumonia are usually treated with antibiotics.
- Viral types of pneumonia are usually treated with rest and plenty of fluids. Antiviral medications can be used in influenza.
- Fungal types of pneumonia are usually treated with antifungal medications.
Doctors commonly prescribe over-the-counter (OTC) medications to help manage the symptoms of this disease. These include treatments for reducing fever, reducing aches and pains, and suppressing coughs.
The Dr. Parthiv Shah is a pneumonia specialist doctor in Borivali, Mumbai. Meet with him and take a free consultation