Diseases of the Lungs: Pneumonia | Revere Health

One of the most well-known conditions that can affect the lungs is pneumonia, a disease most often caused by infection. Pneumonia develops when air sacs in the lungs become inflamed, often causing them to fill with fluid or pus.

Pneumonia can cause a number of symptoms and complications, and can range anywhere from moderate to life-threatening. Several different factors can lead to infections in the lungs, and people of certain ages and with certain conditions may be at higher risk. Let’s find out more about pneumonia – how to recognize it, treat it and prevent it.

Causes of Pneumonia

Infection is the major concern in nearly all cases of pneumonia, and it can be caused by several different kinds of germs. Pneumonia is categorized based on how and where the germs infected you.

Community-acquired: This is the easiest way to get pneumonia – in social settings, and from other people who are infected. It spreads in a few different ways:

  • Viruses (most common cause for children under five)
  • Bacteria or similar organisms
  • Fungi

Hospital- or healthcare-acquired: People staying in hospitals or at long term healthcare facilities can contract pneumonia from those places.

Aspiration pneumonia: This refers to a time where you may have accidentally inhaled food, drink or other substances that don’t belong into your lungs. In rare cases, it can lead to pneumonia.

Pneumonia can affect anyone, but it’s most serious for young (under two years old) and old (over 65 years old) people. These populations are usually at higher risk. People with low immune systems, chronic diseases or who smoke cigarettes are also at higher general risk.

Symptoms

Symptoms of pneumonia are generally similar to a flu, and can include:

  • Mucus-heavy cough and chest pain
  • Fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Trouble breathing
  • Low body temperature or confusion in people over 65

It can be tough to decide when you should see a doctor as the symptoms may also point to a cold or the flu, but if you are in a high-risk group, it’s good to consult with a doctor. Seek immediate medical attention if you have a fever above 102 degrees Fahrenheit.

Possible Complications

Pneumonia is usually managed with rest and proper treatment, but there are some cases where it can cause further problems. Some of the complications from pneumonia include:

  • Organ failure, caused by bacteria that enters the bloodstream through the lungs and infects organs elsewhere in the body
  • Lung abscess, caused by pus creating a cavity in the lung. Antibiotics work to treat an abscess in some cases, but in others, surgery is required
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fluid buildup and additional infections in the lungs

Diagnosis and Treatment

There are several different tests that may accompany a basic physical examination when your doctor is checking for pneumonia:

  • X-rays
  • Blood tests
  • Pulse oximetry – measures oxygen in the bloodstream, since pneumonia causes lower-than-normal oxygen levels
  • Sputum test – sample of mucus from lungs
  • CT scan – often performed for people over 65 with chronic pneumonia issues
  • Pleural fluid culture – similar to a sputum test, but uses an injection to extract fluid

The primary goal of treatment for pneumonia is managing the initial infection and preventing it from spreading or causing other problems. Doctors typically recommend some combination of cough medicine, antibiotics and pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen, but the exact dosages depend on your individual case. In severe cases, especially for high-risk groups, treatment for pneumonia may involve hospitalization for a few days or even weeks.

Revere Health Pulmonology offers specialized treatment options for asthma, COPD, chronic cough and shortness of breath.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.

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