Overview of the disease:
Pneumonia stands for the inflammation of air sacs and that can happen in the one or both lungs. Air sacs that are present in lungs might get filled with fluid which might contain purulent discharges in easier words pus. This results in dyspnea or difficulty in breathing which induces cough which contains pus along with fever and chills. Pneumonia's causative agent isn't limited and the disease is known to spread from different sources this includes fungi, viruses and bacteria. The disease itself is life threatening especially in infants and people who are above the age of 60. It may also develop as a slow progressive disease which can become life threatening if proper therapy isn't done. The symptoms though slowly appear sometimes become acute in nature and can also happen in people who have weaker immune systems.
Symptoms of Pneumonia:
As discussed before that the disease can occur in two forms either slow progressive chronic or sudden onset acute form the signs too vary from mild to severe and depends on the agents that are causing it. It may also depend on the person's immune system and age. If we keep this in mind the a person aged 20 years and a child aged 5 years if gets pneumonia antigen from the same source the child would be the first one to have pneumonia and the disease will occur as a rapid and acute form. This is due to the fact that children have developing immune systems. The signs are very similar to that of common cold but pneumonia persists and gets worsened over time if the therapy isn't done. Following are listed some of the signs and symptoms of pneumonia:
- chest discomfort or pain when a person coughs.
- It is seen in older people that pneumonia effects the mental capability of the people. The patients may appear to be very confused as well.
- Coughing sputum or purulent discharges is commonly seen
- Fatigue or muscle aches a person might experience even if doing very less work.
- Fever, chills and sweating is commonly seen as well.
- The temperature in older people tends to be low than normal and is commonly termed as cold fever.
- Nausea with vomiting is commonly observed as well.
- Diarrhea and abnormal bowel movements
- Dyspnea or shortness of breath which causes cough leading to more discomfort.
On the other hand in the case of infants the disease might occur without the reveal of proper symptoms this may result in little or no vomiting, high fever, child might appear to be restlessness and without energy. Infants will face difficulty in eating and breathing as well.
We will be discussing two types of pneumonia on the basis of causative agents.
1. Bacterial pneumonia2. Viral pneumonia
These are explained precisely below.
1. Bacterial Pneumonia:
In case of Bacterial pneumonia which also happens to be the commonly occurring form of pneumonia is also the most life threatening one as well. The symptoms of bacterial pneumonia requires immediate medical assistance and the disease occurs either slowly or all of a sudden depending on one's age and their immune system. In bacteria pneumonia fever may went above or to 105 degree Fahrenheit. Excessive sweating may be induced due to high fever and an increase in pulse rate is noted. The breathing too is accelerated and hypoxia might occur (loss of oxygen). Due to hypoxia the nailbeds and lips might face discoloration and will give a blue appearance. Bacterial pneumonia effects on the mental health as well and the patient might appear to be confused.
2. Viral pneumonia:
The onset of viral pneumonia is slow paced as compared to the bacterial pneumonia and is extended over several days. The disease with causative agent being a virus displays symptoms similar to that of influenza. A person will experience fever and a dry cough. Headache, muscle pain and weakness too is observed. After the appearance of these signs which can be termed as initial ones the disease take 2 or 3 days before the signs become worse thus the coughing is increased, pressure on the chest cavity also increases. Shortness of breath and muscle pain also intensifies as compared to the signs that a person was facing initially.
People with respiratory disorder the symptoms will be worsened for them.
When to see a doctor:
Although the symptoms can be confused with common cold or influenza if a person faces extreme discomfort in the chest cavity and finds it difficult to breath with coughs and high fever. It is best suited that the person consult a doctor. People who are at risk because of pneumonia are as follows:
- People with age above 65 are at risk
- children younger than the age of 2
- People with a poor immune system.
- Chemotherapy can suppress immune system thus the people are at risk.
People with heart problems and respiratory tract disorders might develop intense signs than the ones who were healthy before. Infants too face life threatening situations if the signs are left untreated.
Causes of Pneumonia:
Many germs are known to spread pneumonia but mostly the pneumonia that occurs in people is due to the viruses and bacteria present in the air that we breathe. Usually the body fends off the microbial agents attacking on the body but sometimes these agents can suppress the immunity thus giving way to the disease to occur. Pneumonia can be classified into the types of the organisms that causes them.
The most common species of bacteria that causes pneumonia is Streptococcous pneumoniae. The pneumonia usually occurs after the person gets common cold and usually effects one lung. This is usually called lobular pneumonia.
Bacteria like organism:
Mycoplasma species can also cause pneumonia and causes milder signs. Walking pneumonia is the term used for it as it is not that severe and usually a bed rest is not recommended by the physicians and patients can recover in time.
Commonly found in people with chronic health problems and weak or poor immune system. Aerosol transmission is the cause and the heavy inhalation of spores can cause this disease. Fungi can be found in soil and bird droppings and disease prevalence and occurrence depends on the geographical distribution.
Mild form of pneumonia and occurs usually in children younger than 5 years of age. Clinically the disease signs and symptoms are close enough to that of influenza with high fever, muscle aches, flu and dry cough. Pneumonia caused by viruses can be cured easily and isn't life threatening if treated on time.
On the basis of environment and personal status the disease is categorized and explained as follows:
Hospital acquired pneumonia:
Usually transmitted through aerosol when a person is admitted in the hospital. These are usually bacterial and the spores are given out through inhalation. People with weakened immunity pick it thus paving a way for pneumonia. People who are in intensive care unit are more likely to get this disease.
Health acquired pneumonia:
Occurs in people who spend a long time as lab workers and specifically to those who work in kidney dialysis centers. The bacteria in these case might be resistant to antibiotics and this will result in signs getting more apparent if left untreated.
Inhalation of anything whether it is food water or vomit which contain bacteria that can lead to pneumonia is termed as aspiration pneumonia.
Complications due to pneumonia:
- Bacteremia can occur due to pneumonia and bacteria can go into the blood stream thereby circulating in the body this will probably lead to organ failure if left unchecked.
- In the case of asthma when there is excessive difficulty in breathing pneumonia might make it even worse and can lead to death as well. Hypoxia can occur as well.
- Abscess in lungs can occur which might contain pus. This can be treated using antibiotics.
- Vaccines are available against agents that can cause pneumonia.
- Children should be vaccinated so that their immune system cannot be suppressed easily.
- Good hygiene is the best way to avoid pneumonia as poor hygiene will lead to the growth of virus's fungi and bacteria. This will be inhaled by a person who will become susceptible to the infection.
- Smoking damages the natural regulatory and defense response of the lungs thus it smoking should not be done.
- Antibiotics are used for the treatment of pneumonia in case of bacterial pneumonia.
- Cough medicine can also be given so as to lower down the production of sputum produced.
- Pain killers can also be given as there is clear pain in the chest which is progressive and become unbearable with the passage of time.
It is therefore advised to avoid the poor sanitary condition in order to prevent this disease. Proper treatment is given to the people who are diagnosed with pneumonia so that their lives can be saved in time.
Prevention of Pneumonia:
There are some ways with the help of which it is possible to reduce the chances of acquiring pneumonia. Following are some of those:
- Getting a flu shot is very important and you should get a flu shot every year to prevent seasonal influenza. Flu is a very common cause of pneumonia and if one is able to prevent flu or influenza, it is possible to get rid of pneumonia.
- All children younger than the age group of 5 and adults who are 65 or older than that should get a vaccination against pneumococcal pneumonia which is a much common form of bacterial pneumonia. The pneumococcal vaccine is also recommended to those people who have health conditions and are at a risk of getting pneumonia due to body state. However, it is important to talk to your doctor before opting for a vaccination.
- There are number of other vaccines that can prevent infections by bacteria and viruses which may lead to pneumonia. This includes pertussis, chicken pox and measles vaccinations. It is important to consult your doctor about the status of all these vaccines and if these are appropriate for you.
- Never forget to wash your hands, especially if you are suffering from influenza.
- Wash your hands after using rest rooms, before and after eating or preparing food.
- It is important to make sure that you keep away from smoke as it is very dangerous for health and damages your ability to fight off infections. Smokers are always at a high risk of getting pneumonia and they are always encouraged to get the pneumococcal vaccine as compared to those people who do not smoke.
- Pneumonia often follows respiratory infections, hence it is important to keep an eye on symptoms of respiratory infections that may linger for more than few days.
- Maintain good healthy habits and consume good healthy diet. If you consumer good diet and do regular exercise you will be able to get rid of infections in a quick time as these habits help in fast recovery of the body.
Following are the time frames required in full recovery from pneumonia.
1 week: After one week your fever should be gone
4 week: After 4 weeks, you should be able to feel better as you'll produce less mucus.
6 week: It will get easier to breathe once you'll cough less
3 months: After 3 months, you'll observe that most of your symptoms are gone but you will still feel tired.
6 months: After a span of 6 months you will feel normal as your disease will go away.
However, if your symptoms are slow to disappear and if you are a smoker over 60 years of age, you should have a chest X-ray six weeks after you started your antibiotics. This is just to check that infection has gone from your lungs and if not than what is the possible course of action one should take in order to get back to normal.
A vast majority of people recover from pneumonia and return to good health with the help of proper medication but pneumonia is a very serious disease which is why it should be dealt with care.