Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can be caused by many different microorganisms. These include viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi.
What is going on in the body?
Pneumonia occurs when an infectious organism causes inflammation in the lungs. The air sacs fill with liquid and mucus. This means they can't deliver oxygen as well to the blood vessels.
What are the causes and risks of the infection?
Pneumonia is a fairly common infection that affects people of all ages. Some of its more common causes are as follows:
- bacteria, such asand
- fungi, such as the organism that causes aspergillosis
- organisms similar to bacteria, such as the ones that cause tuberculosis
- parasites, such aswhich is often seen in people with AIDS
- viruses, such as the ones that cause colds, flu, and RSV infection
The following factors can increase a person's risk of developing severe pneumonia:
- alcohol abuse
- chronic disease, such as diabetes
or heart disease
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, such as emphysema
- old age
- recent surgery
- a weakened immune system
What can be done to prevent the infection?
The pneumonia vaccine
can prevent pneumonia that is caused by bacteria. Because pneumonia is a common complication of the flu, an annual flu shot
can also help to prevent pneumonia.
Pneumonia often follows common respiratory infections. So one of the best ways to prevent it is to be on the lookout for any symptoms of respiratory illness that hang on more than a few days. Healthy living habits can also help. For example, the following healthy habits can all help increase resistance to respiratory illness:
- eating a healthy diet
- practicing personal hygiene
- getting a good night's sleep each night
- doing moderate exercise 30 minutes a day almost every day
These habits can also spur a faster recovery times from illness.
How is the infection diagnosed?
Diagnosis of pneumonia begins with a medical history and physical exam. A chest X-ray
can confirm the diagnosis. Sometimes the germ causing the pneumonia can be found in the person's sputum or blood, but often no specific organism can be identified.
Long Term Effects
What are the long-term effects of the infection?
Usually, there are no long-term effects from pneumonia. Sometimes, lung damage can cause a lasting decrease in lung function.
What are the risks to others?
Most of the organisms that cause pneumonia can be spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing.
What are the treatments for the infection?
Some types of pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics or antiviral medicines. Oxygen, and sometimes a ventilator, may be needed to help a person breathe.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Antibiotics may cause rash, upset stomach, or allergic reactions.
What happens after treatment for the condition?
Most people recover completely and can resume normal activities.
How is the condition monitored?
The healthcare professional may order periodic chest X-rays until the infection is completely gone. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.