Pneumonia - Health Center


By Refadoc, Posted on : Tuesday, 15 September 2015 - 10:46 am IST

Pneumonia: A Basic Overview

Pneumonia is a condition related to the infection in either one or both lungs. This infection could be caused due to fungus, bacteria or even viral infections. In Pneumonia, the air sacs of the lungs become infected and they begin to be filled with fluid or with pus. This makes it very difficult for the patient to breathe. The basic symptoms for the disease can vary from mild to fatal in some cases. It is astonishing that pneumonia is one of the biggest reasons for deaths all over the world. The severity of the disease is dependent upon different factors such as the age and overall health of the person along with the inflammation and the kind of organism responsible for the disease.

The flu virus is one of the major reasons for viral pneumonia in adults and children.

Causes of Pneumonia:

In most of the cases, a specific organism, either a bacteria or a virus could be one of the major reasons for the occurrence of the disease. These organisms cannot be diagnosed without specific tests. Usually, Streptococcus pneumoniae is the causative agent for the occurrence of the disease. Different kinds of bacteria are known to cause pneumonia; such as Mycoplasma pneumonia. This mild kind of pneumonia is also known as walking pneumonia. Viruses such as Influenza A and RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Viruses are known to cause pneumonia in people all over the world.

People suffering from impaired immune systems are at a greater risk of contracting pneumonia as compared to their counterparts. Pneumocystis Jiroveci is a fungus which is known to cause pneumonia specifically in people who are suffering from AIDS. Therefore, doctors often suggest HIV test for patients who suffer from a Pneumocystis jiroveci infection.

How can you contract Pneumonia?

There are many different ways via which you can contract Pneumonia. Some of the agents are as follows:

  • ü  Breathing infected air particles into your lungs.
  • ü  These infected bacteria travel from the nose towards the throat and lungs.
  • ü  As an after complication of diseases such as respiratory infections or flu.
  • ü  Breathing in a large amount of food or gastric juices from the stomach or vomiting into the lungs, this is known as aspirating Pneumonia. This tends to happen when you suffer from a medical condition which tends to restrict your ability to swallow.

The nose and throat of a healthy person often tends to contain bacteria and virus which can be held responsible for causing Pneumonia. A person can get pneumonia in their daily life as well from either school or work; this is known as community associated pneumonia.

Different Types of Pneumonia:

There are different types of pneumonia as grouped by their causative agents. These are as follows:

  • Bacterial Pneumonia: This kind of pneumonia can affect people of all ages. It tends to develop after a person has suffered from a serious cold or flu. Streptococcus Pneumoniae, Chlamydophila Pneumonia and Legionella Pneumonia are the major causative agents behind this kind of infection. Pneumocystis Jiroveci pneumonia is sometimes found in people who have a weak immune system such as the patients who are suffering from AIDS or cancer.
  • Viral Pneumonia: In most of the cases, respiratory viruses are the causative agents behind causing pneumonia, especially in the case of young children or the elderly people. This kind of pneumonia is not serious in nature and lasts for a short interval of time. Also, flu virus causes viral pneumonia can prove to be fatal for pregnant women or people who are battling against heart or lung diseases.
  • Mycoplasma Pneumonia: Mycoplasmas are not basically viruses or bacteria, but they contain the traits of both of them. These are one of the smallest agents that are known to cause disease in humans. Mycoplasmas are the reason for causing mild cases of pneumonia, often in the cases of children or in young adults.
  • Other kinds of Pneumonia: There are some additional kinds of pneumonias which are known to affect the immune system of people. Tuberculosis and Pneumocystis Carinii are generally known to affect people who are suffering from AIDS. 

Signs and Symptoms of Pneumonia:

The symptoms of Pneumonia tend to occur after the infection begins in the upper respiratory tract, such as in case of flu or cold. Some of the major symptoms are as follows:

  •   Cough accompanied with mucous, which is known as sputum. This mucous could be rusty or green colour or could be tinged with blood.
  •   Fever
  •   Chills
  •   Fast and often shallow breathing
  •   Fast heartbeat
  •   Tiredness
  •   Feeling of nausea or vomiting
  •   Consistent Diarrhoea

In cases of non bacterial pneumonia, the signs and symptoms could be as follows:

  •   Fever
  •   Cough
  •   Shortness of the breath
  •   Presence of little mucous during cough

When the symptoms of the disease are very mild, then the condition is known as walking pneumonia.

In cases of older adults and children, the signs and symptoms of the disease are as follows:

  •   In infants younger than one month, lethargy, poor feeding habits, grunting or fever could be the major symptoms.
  •   In children, the symptoms are the same as are found in the case of the adults. This can be accompanied by persistent cough or a breathing rate of over 60 breathes per minute.

Tests and Diagnosis of Pneumonia:

Pneumonia is basically diagnosed with the help of a physical exam which is accompanied with the medical history of the patient. Also, in some cases, an X ray of the chest could be asked for in order to check for any changes in the structure of the lungs due to the disease. However, x ray is not a definitive way to determine the disease.

Lab Tests:

These include tests such as the Pleural Fluid Test in which the fluid from the pleural space is drawn. This sample is then checked for the presence of the bacteria or the viruses. Bronchoscopy is another of the tests in which the airways inside the lungs is checked for the blocked airways to check if they are contributing towards pneumonia.

Mucous Tests:

If a person is very ill, accompanied with the shortness of the breath, or if a person has a condition which increases the risk of asthma, then the doctor may check the mucous of the person. Tests could include testing the person for Gram Strain or a sputum culture.

Rapid Urine Test:

This test is done in order to identify the bacteria which cause pneumonia. This could help the doctor to check the guide the treatment for pneumonia.

HIV Tests:

People who are suffering from impaired immune systems, pneumonia could be caused due to some other organisms such as certain forms of fungi just as Pneumocystis jiroveci which affects only people who are suffering from HIV.

Treatments of Pneumonia:

The treatment option for Pneumonia is dependent on the type of organism which is causing the infection as well as its severity. In some of the cases, the disease can be easily treated at home.

  1. General Treatment: In this, the prescribed medications are taken on the right time, followed by a strenuous follow up with the doctor. A chest X ray could be done as well in order to make sure that the pneumonia has been treated successfully.
  2. Bacterial Pneumonia: Antibiotics are the best option to treat this kind of pneumonia. Antibiotics should be taken as directed by the doctor. If the antibiotics are stopped before the treatment is completed, then there are chances for the pneumonia to return. However, most people tend to get cured after 3-4 days of the treatment.
  3. Viral Pneumonia: Antibiotics are useless if virus is the reason behind causing pneumonia. Antiviral can help cure the condition completely. Symptoms tend to improve within one to three weeks.


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