Pneumonia: Understanding, Types, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Other

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is when one or both lungs get inflamed, usually because of bacteria, viruses, or fungi. With pneumonia the small air sacs in the lung fill with or pus, causing coughing, chest pain, and trouble breathing. Anyone can get it. However, young children, older adults and people with other health problems that make their immune system weaker are more likely to get it. These groups are also more likely to have complications from it. For more research you can also visit Wikipedia.

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection that affects one or both lungs. It makes the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs fill with fluid or pus. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi.

Is Pneumonia Curable?

A variety of infections agents can cause it. With proper recognition and treatment many cases of it can be cleared without complications. For bacterial infections, stopping antibiotics early can lead to incomplete clearance of the infection, increasing the risk of it returning. Additionally, premature cessation of antibiotics can contribute to antibiotic resistance making infection harder to treat. Viral pneumonia often resolves within 1 to 3 weeks with at home treatment. In some cases, antiviral medications may be necessary. Antifungal medications are used to treat fungal pneumonia, which may require a longer treatment period.

What are the Types of Pneumonia?   

Pneumonia types vary based on their cause. The different types and their causes include:

Bacterial Pneumonia:

Many bacteria can cause it, but the most common is Streptococcus pneumonia (S. pneumonia). Pneumonia from this strain is called pneumococcal it. 

Viral Pneumonia:

This can be caused by viruses like the respiratory syncytial virus and influenza types A and B.

Fungal Pneumonia:

This can happen from conditions like valley fever, caused by the Coccidioides fungus.

Aspiration Pneumonia:

This type occurs when you inhale food, liquids, or stomach contents into your lungs. Aspiration pneumonia is not contagious.

Hospital Acquired Pneumonia:

This can occur in people receiving hospital treatment for other conditions, especially if they are using a respirator or breathing machine.

Walking Pneumonia:

This is the nickname for a less serious type of it officially called mycoplasma pneumonia, named after the bacteria that cause it. Young adults and older children most often get this type which often doesn’t require bed rest.

What are the Symptoms of Pneumonia?

Your symptoms can vary depending on the cause of your pneumonia, your age, and your overall health. They usually develop over several days. Common symptoms of it include:

  • Sharp pain in your chest or belly when you breathe or cough
  • Coughing usually producing phlegm or mucus
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • A bluish tint to your lips or fingernails (may be harder to see on darker skin tones)
  • Asthma
  • A fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • A fast pulse
  • Sharp or stabbing chest pain when breathing or coughing

In addition to these symptoms, older adults and people with weak immune systems might feel confused or have trouble thinking. They might also have a lower than normal body temperature. Symptoms of viral it tend to come on slowly and are often mild at first. They may include:

  • Coughing
  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath especially during exertion

If you have trouble breathing a persistent cough, chest pain, or a fever of 102 F or higher see your doctor.

What are the Causes of Pneumonia?

You get it when a harmful substance overwhelms your immune system and infects your lungs. Viruses that can cause viral it include:

The bacteria that can cause bacterial pneumonia include:

  • Pneumococcus bacteria (the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia)
  • Mycoplasma
  • Legionella (the bacterium that cause Legionnaire disease)
  • Certain types of chlamydia bacteria

Fungi that can cause fungal pneumonia include:

  • Coccidioidomycosis (the fungus that causes valley fever, found in parts of the Southwestern U.S.)
  • Cryptococcus (found in bird dropping and soil contaminated with it)
  • Histoplasmosis (occurs in the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys)  

What are the Risk Factors of Pneumonia?

Anyone can get it but it most commonly affects babies and people over 65. You’re also at higher risk if you:

  • Have a lung condition like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Have another serious health condition like heart disease and diabetes.
  • Have a weakened immune system due to a condition like AIDS, chemotherapy, or an organ transplant
  • Spend time in a healthcare facility such as hospital or long-term care home
  • Have trouble swallowing
  • Use a ventilator
  • Smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke
  • Misuse alcohol or drugs
  • Spend in time in an environment with irritants like dust, fumes, or chemicals
  • Diabetes
  • Have cancer
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Take medicines for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Experience malnutrition
  • Smoke tobacco consume large amounts of alcohol or both
  • Have been exposed to certain chemicals or pollutants
  • Have recently been hospitalized in an intensive care unit

What is the Diagnosis of Pneumonia?

To diagnose it, a doctor will usually ask about a person’s symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. The exam may include listening to the chest with a stethoscope and measuring blood oxygen levels using a pulse oximeter on the finger. A doctor may suspect it if they hear:

  • Coarse breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Crackling
  • Decreased breath sounds

If it is suspected doctors may order additional tests, including:

  • Chest-X Rays: These can confirm its diagnosis and show which areas of the lungs are affected.
  • Chest CT Scan: Provides more detailed images of the lungs.
  • White Blood Cell (WBC) Count: Measures levels of WBCs in the blood to determine the severity of the infection and whether it is caused by bacteria, a virus or fungus.
  • Arterial Blood Gas Test: Providers a more accurate reading of the body’s oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
  • Blood Cultures: May reveal if the microorganism from the lungs has spread into the bloodstream.
  • Sputum Analysis: Test the sputum to identify which pathogens are causing the pneumonia.
  • Bronchoscopy: Involves passing a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera into the lungs while the person is under anesthesia. This allows the doctor to directly examine infected parts of the person under anesthesia. This allows the doctor to directly examine infected parts of the airways and lungs. This procedure is recommended when further investigation is needed.

What is the Treatment of Pneumonia?

Your treatment will depend on the cause of your pneumonia, how serious it is, and your overall health. Most people can recover at home with rest and medication.

Pneumonia Medication:

If you have bacterial pneumonia, you’ll be prescribed antibiotics. It’s important to take all of the medicine your doctor gives you even if you start feeling better before finishing it. If you have viral pneumonia, antibiotics won’t help. You’ll need to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take medication for your fever. Antiviral medications can be effective against some viruses that cause pneumonia. For fungal pneumonia your doctor will prescribe antifungal medication.

Atypical Pneumonia Treatment:

Atypical it is caused by bacteria that are difficult for doctors to detect with standard methods, such as mycoplasma and legionella. If you have a mild case, you may be able to recover with rest and self-care at home. However, if it’s more serious your doctor will treat it with antibiotics.

Pneumonia Nebulizer:

Your doctor may prescribe a nebulizer or inhaler to you or your child to help with breathing. However, it’s important to note that this won’t treat the pneumonia itself, it’s mainly for managing symptoms and making breathing easier.

Hospitalization for Pneumonia:

If your symptoms are serious or if you have other conditions that increase the risk of complications, your doctor may admit you to the hospital. While you’re there, your doctor will likely administer fluids or antibiotics through an IV. You may also require oxygen therapy or breathing treatments. In some cases, doctors may need to drain fluid from your lungs.

What are the Complications of Pneumonia?

It can lead to complication which are more common in:

  • Your children
  • Older adults
  • People with certain preexisting health conditions

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some potential complications of pneumococcal it include:

  • Empyema
  • Pericarditis
  • Endobronchial obstruction
  • Atelectasis
  • Lung abscess

Some other possible complications of it include:

  • Pleurisy
  • Septicemia
  • Sepsis  

What is the Prevention of Pneumonia?

In many cases it can be prevented.

Vaccination:

The primary defense against pneumonia is vaccination. There are several vaccines available that can help prevent pneumonia.

Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax 23:

These two pneumonia vaccines help protect against it and meningitis caused by pneumococcal bacteria. Your doctor can advise you on which one might be better for you. Prevnar 13 is effective against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria. The CDC recommends this vaccine for:

  • Children under age 2
  • People between ages 2 and 64 with chronic conditions that increase their risk of it
  • Adults ages 65 and older, as advised by their doctor

Pneumovax 23 is effective against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. The CDC recommends it for:

  • Adults ages 65 and older
  • Adults ages 19 to 64 who smoke
  • People between ages 2 and 64 with chronic conditions that increase their risk of it

Flu Vaccine:

It can often be a complication of the flu, so it’s important to get an annual flu shot as well. The CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get vaccinated, especially those who may be at risk of flu complications.

Hib Vaccine:

This vaccine protects against Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), a bacterium that can cause it and meningitis. The CDC recommends this vaccine for:

  • All children under 5 years’ old
  • Unvaccinated older children or adults with certain health conditions
  • People who have received a bone marrow transplant

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood institute, pneumonia vaccines won’t prevent all cases of the condition. However, if you’re vaccinated you’re likely to have a milder and shorter illness, as well as a lower risk of complications.

What to know about Aspiration Pneumonia?

Aspiration pneumonia can occur if a person breathes something into their lungs instead of swallowing it. Germs, food particles, saliva, vomit, and other substances may infect the airways. Treatment often involves oxygen and antibiotics. Aspiration pneumonia is less common in healthy people and more common in those with existing health issues. It differs from regular pneumonia which is caused by a virus, bacteria, or fungus that infects the body and then spreads to the lungs. Aspiration pneumonia starts as pneumonitis, a general term for lung disease. Pneumonitis can also be triggered by environmental factors like chemical exposures. Anyone can get pneumonitis, regardless of their health. This inflammation allows bacteria to grow in the lungs, leading to pneumonia.

What are the Symptoms of Aspiration Pneumonia?

Aspiration pneumonia can cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Wheezing
  • Slightly blue skin
  • High fever
  • Sweating
  • Anyone experiencing these symptoms should contact their doctors immediately for diagnosis and treatment.

What are the Causes and Risk Factors of Aspiration Pneumonia?

So several conditions increase a person’s risk of developing aspiration pneumonia, including:

  • Esophageal disorder or dysfunction
  • Use of muscle relaxers, sedatives, or anesthesia
  • Dental problem
  • Neurological disorders affecting nerves
  • Throat cancer
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Heart attack
  • Coma or other states of impaired consciousness
  • Gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) or heartburn
  • Disorders impairing mental state, such as dementia

Some other risk factors include:

  • Advanced age
  • Substance use disorder
  • Poor gag reflexes

What is the Diagnosis of Aspiration Pneumonia?

Doctors will work to diagnosis and treat aspiration pneumonia as quickly as possible. They’ll typically ask about symptoms and perform a physical exam to check for signs of pneumonia. Signs may include a cracking noise in the lungs while breathing or difficulty breathing. X-rays or computed tomography (CT) scans can provide images of the lungs. Doctors may also use a bronchoscope to inspect the airways for any blockages. Tests like sputum culture, complete blood count (CBC), or arterial blood gas test can help determine the severity of the infection and the necessary treatment. Additionally, they may order an esophagram/barium swallow, which involves special X-rays with dye of the esophagus, or a pharyngeal manometry to measure esophageal pressure.

What is the Treatment of Aspiration Pneumonia?

Treatment of aspiration pneumonia varies depending on the person’s overall health and the severity of their symptoms. Doctors will also adjust treatment for people with allergies to or who have a reaction to penicillin. So antibiotics are often prescribed to clear the infection and prevent serious complications. Doctors typically start antibiotics if they suspect the person’s pneumonitis is pneumonia. They may also suggest raising the bed to a 45-degree angle and providing humidified oxygen. Some people may need hospitalization for monitoring their blood oxygen levels for extended periods. If a person has difficulty breathing, they may require a breathing machine. If swallowing is difficult, doctors may recommend assisted feeding methods or changes to eating habits to prevent further aspiration.

What is the Complication of Aspiration Pneumonia?

Aspiration pneumonia can lead to severe complications, especially if a person delays seeking medical attention. The infection may rapidly worsen and spread to other parts of the body, including the bloodstream which can be very dangerous. Pockets or abscesses may develop in the lungs. In severe cases, pneumonia can lead to respiratory failure or even death. Conditions that affect swallowing or cause inflammation can exacerbate aspiration pneumonia or hinder proper healing. In some cases, severe infections can cause lasting damage and scarring in the lungs and large airways.

What is the Prevention of Aspiration Pneumonia?

So other tips to prevent aspiration pneumonia include:

  • Maintaining good dental and oral hygiene
  • Avoid smoking  
  • Sitting up while eating and chewing slowly and deliberately
  • Eating slowly and avoiding laughing or talking while eating
  • Seeking counseling for alcohol or substance misuse
  • Avoiding foods that are difficult to swallow

Additionally, being under general anesthesia increases the risk of gastric aspiration pneumonia, where a person inhales their stomach acid. For this reason, anyone scheduled for surgery should fast for at least 8 hours before the procedure. Doctors typically provide specific fasting guidelines for each case.  

FAQs:

How long can pneumonia last?

Recovery from pneumonia can vary from person to person. Some individuals may start feeling better and return to their normal routines within 1 to 2 weeks, while for others it may take a month or even longer. It’s common for most people to experience fatigue for about a month as they continue to recover.

Which foods help clear lungs?

According to a study the antioxidants found in apples and tomatoes can contribute to better lung function. Another study indicates that including fiber-rich foods like lentils and beans in your diet can also improve your lung health.

Can I drink milk if I have it?

Drink at least 6-8 glasses of fluid a day. Water and juice are best. Coffee and soft drinks with caffeine don’t count. You may avoid milk products until you are feeling better.

Which juice clears lungs?

  • A better ABC (apple beet carrot) juice.
  • Classic beet juice
  • Fruit juice
  • Elderberry juice with orange and pear    
  • Pineapple green juice with ginger and kale
  • Soothing grape juice

What not to eat in pneumonia?

  • Salty foods
  • Dairy products
  • Processed meats
  • Soda
  • Fried foods

What are the superfoods for pneumonia?

A diet rich in proteins is beneficial for people suffering from pneumonia. Foods like nuts, seeds, walnuts, beans, white meat, and cold water, fish such as salmon and sardines have anti-inflammatory properties.

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