Pneumonia

Overview

Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs that is caused due to bacteria, viruses or fungi. The disease can affect one or both lungs. The lungs have tiny air sacs, which may be filled with fluid or pus, causing cough, fever, difficulty breathing, and more. Viral and bacterial pneumonia is contagious and can spread from one person to another. It can happen to anyone, though infants and older adults are at higher risk of developing pneumonia.

Types

Pneumonia can be broadly classified according to the type of germs and how it was acquired, including:

  • • Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP). It occurs outside healthcare facilities or hospitals and is one of the most common types of pneumonia. 
  • • Hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP). It is a type of bacterial pneumonia acquired during a hospital stay.
  • • Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP). This refers to pneumonia acquired when a patient is on a ventilator.
  • • Aspiration pneumonia. This occurs when the patient inhales bacteria from food, drink or salvia.

Symptoms of pneumonia

Some of the common symptoms associated with pneumonia include:

  • • Chest pain with cough or breathing
  • • Lower than normal body temperature
  • • Shortness of breath

Causes

Pneumonia is caused due to different classes of germs, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. These pathogens enter the tiny air sacs present in the lungs, known as alveoli. The immune system responds by sending the white blood cells to attack these pathogens, which causes inflammation of the air sacs in the lungs. Unfortunately, this also causes the alveoli to fill up with fluid or pus, which ultimately causes pneumonia.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of pneumonia starts with a physical examination where the doctor listens to the lungs using a stethoscope to check for any crackling sounds. The doctor may also order some tests, including:

  • • Blood tests. These are done to determine the types of germs causing the infection.
  • • Chest X-ray. This helps to identify the location and extent of the infection.
  • • Sputum culture. The test is done to identify the root cause of the infection.
  • • Pulse oximetry. The test measures the amount of oxygen in the blood.
  • • CT Scan. It is used to get detailed images of the lungs.
  • • Pleural fluid culture. A fluid sample is taken between the ribs from the pleural area to determine the type of infection.

Treatment

The treatment for pneumonia generally involves curing the infection. The doctor may use different methods to treat this condition, which may include:

  • • The doctor may prescribe antibiotics, cough medication, and pain relievers to treat the infection. The doctor may also provide over-the-counter medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen, and more to help with the symptoms.
  • • If the symptoms are severe, the patient is hospitalised to get the necessary treatment. The medical team constantly monitors the vitals. The doctor may inject antibiotics directly into a vein or use respiratory therapy, which involves inserting specific medications into the lungs.

Risk Factor

Pneumonia can affect anyone. However, children two years old or younger and people who are older than 65 years have the highest risk of developing pneumonia. Other risk factors include:

  • • Certain chronic disease
  • • Weakened immune system
  • • Being hospitalised
  • • Brain disorders like stroke or dementia
  • • Exposure to toxic fumes
  • • Consuming a heavy amount of alcohol

Prevention

There are specific ways through which one can prevent pneumonia. These include:

  • • Get vaccinated
  • • Quit Smoking
  • • Regularly was hand
  • • Cover cough and sneezes
  • • Maintain a healthy lifestyle
  • • Keep the immune system strong

Complications

If left untreated, pneumonia can cause certain complications, including

  • • Lung abscesses
  • • Difficulty in breathing
  • • Pleural effusion
  • • Damage to kidney, heart, and liver
  • • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • • Endobronchial obstruction

Outlook for Patients

The outlook for patients suffering from pneumonia is generally favourable. In some cases, the patients can return to their normal routines within a week. However, for some, it may take more than one month. Therefore, taking proper rest and following the treatment plan provided by the doctor are essential to full recovery.