Pneumonia: Types, Symptoms, and Treatment
Pneumonia is an infection that occurs in the lungs. This can be a serious life-threatening disease or it can be mild as well. Pneumonia has a lot of possible causes but it normally starts with bacterial or fungal infections. The lungs become swollen and the small air sacs present inside the lungs fill with liquid. Pneumonia can occur at any age, but it is more risky at older ages because of underlying health factors or weak immune system. Among infants it is also severe as they are prone to more infections. There are a lot of germs that can cause pneumonia, but the most common ones are viruses and bacteria present in air that we inhale. Healthy bodies at all times may not be able to prevent germs from infecting the lungs as they may overpower the immune system.
As pneumonia is caused by various reasons it can be classified into the types of germs that cause it and where you may have gotten the infection from:
- Community-acquired pneumonia is the universal type as it caused outside the health care facilities. Bacterial pneumonia also known as Streptococcus pneumonia occurs on its own after having a cold or through RSV(Respiratory Synclinal Virus) or flu (Influenza A and B type), it may affect one part of the lung which is also known as lobar pneumonia. Bacteria-like organisms also known as mycoplasma pnuemoniae or walking pneumonia causes milder symptoms than other types and it may not require a bed rest. Fungi found in soil or bird droppings can also cause pneumonia to people who have weak immune system or may have inhaled large amount of organisms depending on where one lives. A fever caused by coccid-odes fungus also causes pneumonia. Viruses most common in infant’s up to the age of 5. Cause cold and flu virus can cause a mild pneumonia and it may become a serious illness. Smoking frequently also damages the body’s natural defense system against any virus or bacteria.
- Hospital-acquired pneumonia or Health care-acquired pneumonia is a type where a person can catch pneumonia during a hospital visit for any illness or if a person is admitted for a long term. These include kidney dialysis centers. This can be very serious as the bacteria causing it are resident to antibiotics. People who are already sick have more chances of getting pneumonia. Also people who are kept on breathing machines used in intensive care units are at higher risk of having
this type of infection.
- Aspiration pneumonia is caused when you breathe in food, drinks, throw up (vomit) or saliva in your lungs. It occurs when the normal gag reflex is damaged due to a brain injury or if you have problems swallowing or if you overdose yourself with alcohol or drugs. This type of pneumonia is not contagious.
Despite any of these causes, the symptoms of pneumonia are similar in each case. Symptoms of pneumonia in cases of adults may usually be caused due to cold or flu which develops into high fever, chills and cough with mucus. The mucus may be rust or may look as green phlegm. Other symptoms may include fast inhaling and exhaling of air and increased heartbeat, shortness of breath, pleutritic pain also known as chest pain while taking a deep breath, weakness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, headaches, muscle pains, delirium also known as confusion in older adults, dusky or purplish skin color originated due to poor oxygenated blood symptoms depending on the type of pneumonia etc. In case of children, they may have difficulty in breathing, if they are not eating properly, coughing, having high fever or dehydration; they may also complain for chest pain and may also vomit after coughing.
Visit the doctor if you see any such symptoms. The doctor will treat you according to the type of pneumonia you may have. Usually pneumonia caused due to bacteria’s is treated with antibiotics, viral types are treated with antiviral medications, and fungal types are treated with antifungal medications. The doctor may also suggest you to drink a lot of water to keep yourself hydrated at all times as it helps to thin out the thick mucus and it makes it easier for you to cough. The doctor may also advice to get hospitalized if the symptoms are worse or if you need a supplemental oxygen supply. And in case you are a smoking parent then the doctor may advice you not to smoke around children having pneumonia.
If the doctor suspects you of having pneumonia, they will recommend you these laboratory tests which are important:-
1. Blood Test: The recommended blood tests include. Complete blood count or CBC. The complete blood count usually reflect the severity of pneumonia for examples the total counts will be high in bacterial pneumonia
- A kidney function test and liver function testis also done for checking the involvement and framing of other organ system.
- Serological tests against virus and bacteria are also done from bacteria are also done from the blood to diagnose the organism.
2. Sputum Test: This laboratory test is a sample of sputum (mucus) to analyze and confirm the cause of the infection.
- Sputum is tested for the type of infection a gram stam, APB stam. This test helps to diagnose the bacteria or fungus causing the pneumonia.
- Advanced molecular testing – the sputum blood or the pleural fluid may also be analyzed by PCR (Polymer chain reaction) to identify the bacteria, virus or fungus causing this infection.
3. Pleural fluid culture: Again this laboratory test may not be mandatory for everyone but is done once if the doctor recommends. A fluid sample is taken by inserting a needle between the ribs and the pleural area and this sample is used to analyze the type of infection.
4. Chest X-ray: This test helps your doctor to diagnose the type of pneumonia present and gives them a clear examination of the extent and location of the infection. It may not tell your doctor what kind of germ caused pneumonia but it surely helps the doctor to rule out any other possible reason other than pneumonia.
5. Pulse oximetry: This laboratory test measure the oxygen level in our blood as pneumonia prevents our lungs to have sufficient oxygen in our bloodstream.
6. CT scan: This laboratory test may not be mandatory for everyone but in case your doctor suggests then that is because your pneumonia isn’t clearing as quickly as it should. The CT scan of chest provides a detailed image of the lungs and helps to determine the cause of pneumonia not clearing quickly. With the treatment some people suffer with complications such as becteremia (bacteria in blood) that spreads the infection from the lungs to other organs causing an organ failure, Pleural effusion (fluid accumulation around the lungs) causing a fluid to build up in the thin space available between the layers of tissues lining the lungs and chest cavity and if this fluid gets infected it may have to be drained through a chest tube or removed with the help of surgery, Lung abscess is caused due to the pus that forms in the cavity of the lung which can be treated by antibiotics but if severe then it may also be removed with the help of surgery or drained with a long needle or tube placed in the abscess.
To avoid any such complications and to prevent yourself from getting pneumonia, get vaccinated as vaccines help to prevent some types of it and flu. Don’t take the vaccination until you have consulted your doctor even in case of children. Quit smoking if you do, practice a good hygiene, keep yourself and your surroundings clean, get enough sleep, exercise daily to keep yourself fit and eat a healthy diet.