Pneumonia is the state of lung infection caused by one or more of the multiple reasons. It is a serious disease, which could bring one’s life at risk. The lung infection from pneumonia could be due to either bacteria, viruses, fungi, or other reasons. When people suffer from this disease, their lungs undergo inflammation. Along with that, the alveoli (tiny air sacs or air spaces) in either one or both of the lungs are filled up with some liquid or fluid. This makes the patient of pneumonia difficult to breathe.
Although, pneumonia can occur at any age, however infants, aged people and those with the weak immune system are more prone to catch a pneumonia infection. When talking about the age groups, it mainly affects children below two years of age and the elderly people with the age above 65 years. Pneumonia can even turn out to be fatal in many cases. More than 1 million pneumonia patients in the US are treated in various hospitals every year, from which around 50,000 do not survive.
Pneumonia is the top global infectious death reasons in the kids below five years of age. Other than that, it is the disease along with influenza, which is at the eighth rank in the list of top death reasons in the US. When we talk about India, around 2 lakh children die every year because of this dangerous disease. It is also identified by the studies that those individuals who smoke are more likely to have pneumonia as compared to those who don’t.
The various symptoms of pneumonia include:
- Very high temperature (of up to 105 F)
- Severe a cough with yellowish and greenish mucus
- Spitting small amount of blood with mucus
- Difficulty in breathing
- Tiredness and weakness
- Lack of appetite
- Steady pain in chest while coughing or breathing deeply
- Excessive and unexpected sweating
- Fast breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- The colour of nails and lips turning blue
- Misperception (confused state of mind)
- A headache
- Increasing shortness of breath
- Muscle pain
The primary causes of pneumonia could be infections spread by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Following are the main categories of this disease along with the associated causes:
- Bacterial Pneumonia: The primary cause of this type of pneumonia is the infection of lungs due to different types of bacteria. The most common type of pneumonia under this category is Streptococcus pneumoniae, which normally occurs in a debilitated body due to various reasons such as malnutrition, sickness, older age, weaker immunity, and more. The bacteria could this way, overcome the immunity of the body to intrude into the lungs and increase their growth further. However, this type of pneumonia can affect people from every age group, but those individuals who do drink alcohol, smoke cigarette, have undergone a surgery, are suffering from illness, respiratory diseases, or viral infections, and have low immunity are more prone to adopt this disease.
- Viral Pneumonia: This is the pneumonia is caused due to various types of viruses, like influenza. Around one-third of the overall pneumonia cases come under this category. Note that a person suffering from viral pneumonia is more prone to also get affected by bacterial pneumonia.
- Mycoplasma or Atypical Pneumonia: This type of pneumonia has distinctive symptoms and its primary cause is the Mycoplasma pneumoniae bacteria. It has the similar tendency of occurrence in individuals from every age group.
- Miscellaneous Pneumonia: This category includes various types of other rare pneumonia caused by multiple types of infections, like those caused by fungi and parasites or by inhaling dust, chemical or other physical substances.
You can take several measures to prevent pneumonia. Some of those are discussed below:
- Several vaccines are available in the Pharma industry that helps in preventing various types of pneumonia to a significant extent. To know about those in detail, you may consult with your physician. The doctor would explain to you about the feasibility of getting a pneumonia vaccine injected in your body based on the latest vaccination guidelines.
- Do not miss the pneumonia vaccine for the children from their vaccination chart. Your paediatrician would recommend a pneumococcal vaccine (like PCV13) for your kids of age between 6 months to 2 years. After this, the second vaccine for the kids above 2 years of age is PPSV23, which aims to provide protection from around 23 different types of pneumonia.
- You must maintain good hygiene in your surroundings to avoid the chances of infection. The patients of various types of respiratory diseases are more likely to fall ill when residing in the dirty environment. You should use sanitizers to clean your hands when coming back from somewhere or before eating something.
- The patients of any kind of respiratory disease or those who would have suffered from pneumonia must quit smoking. Regular or even occasional smoking of tobacco may cause mild to intense damage to the lungs of the human body, which in turn may cause pneumonia easily at a later stage.
- You should take care of your immune system and adopt the habits that would keep it strong. Some of the tips that you can follow to attain this include getting a balanced sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising every day, avoiding exposure to polluted air, avoiding eating junk food, and much more.
On the occurrence of any of the symptoms of pneumonia, especially with the constant fever of above 102 F, you should visit your doctor and explain the details of your medical history. The doctor would physically examine the functioning of the lungs using the stethoscope. If the sound of your breath is abnormal like crackling, the doctor may further recommend a chest X-ray.
Usually, the X-ray report of the chest along with a physical exam may give a clear indication about the occurrence of pneumonia. However, as per the criticality of the symptoms and need for further confirmation, the physician may further suggest one or more of the following investigations:
- Blood Test: It will be performed for the confirmation of the infection. However, the cause of the infection would not be detected by this.
- Sputum Test: In this test, some fluid sample is taken from the lungs and medically examined to identify the type of infection in those.
- Pulse Oximetry: This test is performed by placing an oxygen sensor on a finger of the patient to assess if the lungs are pumping a sufficient amount of oxygen in the blood.
- Urine Test: The doctor may recommend this test for confirming the identification of the Legionella pneumophila, which is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae.
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: This test would provide clear pictures of the lungs by which the detailed analysis could be carried out.
- Fluid Sample Test: If the physician suspects the presence of some fluid in the pleural area of the patient’s chest, this test may be recommended in which little fluid is picked out with the use of a needle from near to the ribs area. Post the investigation of this fluid, the reason for infection will be identified, and the treatment is given accordingly.
- Bronchoscopy: This is the test, which assesses the airways within the lungs of the patient. In this test, a camera fixed with a flexible tube captures some shots of the lungs. This test is recommended to the patients with severe symptoms.
If pneumonia is confirmed by the doctors once after the prescribed investigations, they would treat the patient based on the type of pneumonia and its severity. For instance, a course of antibiotics is recommended in cases of bacterial pneumonia. Then for treating viral pneumonia, the doctors recommend some antiviral medicines and to drink a lot of fluids.
For treating fungal pneumonia, the patients are prescribed some antifungal medicines. Other than those, symptom-based medicines are prescribed to treat the fever, pains, cough, and other problems. It is very important to drink lots of liquid in case of any type of pneumonia. Well, hydration thins the sticky mucus and phlegm in the lungs, which is further cleared within some days to weeks by coughing.
In case the symptoms and infection caused by pneumonia are severe, doctors would recommend hospitalization if needed. This is because the severe infection would have already weakened the immunity of the patient. Hospitalisation ensures close and frequent monitoring of the patient’s symptoms. If the patient is not hospitalised in such a case, the extent of illness may be increased. If the patients feel much difficulty in breathing due to severe infection, they may be provided with the supplementary oxygen for the ease at the hospital.
We have already discussed that pneumonia may be proven as a fatal disease, if not taken care on time. Even with getting treated by a doctor, some patients with pneumonia may be at risk of complications. Some of such major complications are discussed below:
- With bacterial pneumonia, some patients may suffer from bacteremia, which is the condition in which bacteria are entered in the bloodstream starting from your lungs. Since human blood travels across multiple organs of the body, bacteremia causes the chances of spreading infection in any of those organs. This could be the probable reason for organ failure at a later stage.
- When the infection caused by pneumonia is much severe, it becomes very hard for the patient to breath-in the required oxygen. In such a case, immediate hospitalization is recommended with which either a supplementary oxygen supply is provided, or a ventilator is used for making the lungs breath through an artificial assistance.
- Since in pneumonia, some fluid is developed between the space between the tissue layers of lungs and pleura (chest cavity), this infected fluid may be required to be drained off either by inserting a tube in the chest or by removing it using surgery.
- At times, pus is developed in the lungs, and lung abscesses are formed with those. Such abscesses could normally be treated with a course of antibiotics. However, in certain severe conditions, it may be required to perform either a surgery or drainage through other methods like using a needle or placing a tube in the abscess to extract the pus.
Myth #1: Pneumonia vaccination is only available for the children
The PCV13 (Prevnar) pneumonia vaccine of pneumonia is a part of the immunization program for the children. However, people of any age may get injected with the PPSV23 (Pneumovax) vaccine for the prevention of pneumonia.
Myth #2: A person can suffer from pneumonia only once in the lifetime
Individuals with the weaker immune system may suffer from pneumonia multiple times in their lifetime.
Myth #3: Pneumonia is just a little extensive form of a common cold and can be healed by its own
Pneumonia is a worsened infection, which in most of the cases needs an antibiotic course for the recovery. If not got treated on time, it may be fatal to the patient.
Myth #4: Pneumonia may only affect kids and aged people
Pneumonia can impact people of any age.
Myth #5: Pneumonia is a seasonal infection and can occur only during the winters
Individuals may catch pneumonia in any season or month.
Myth #6: Healthy people with a robust immune system do not need a vaccine for pneumonia
The immune system is not necessarily the only cause of developing pneumonia in a body. There are also other multiple reasons like inhalation of chemicals or pollution, which could trigger the changes of getting pneumonia.
Pneumonia is certainly a disease, which must not be ignored for any reason. People often simulate it with the bad cold and assume that it would be healed either by its own or consuming the over the counter medicines. Remember that pneumonia is one of the top fatal infections in the world. So, any of its symptoms must be taken seriously, and a doctor should be consulted without any delay. Since ‘prevention is always better than the cure’, it is good to get everyone in your family vaccine for pneumonia. Also, try to live a healthy lifestyle. Take care.
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