Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of one or both lungs (Frucht, 2012). Currently, it attacks more people every year. It is very important to know the common symptoms of the disease in order to consult a doctor and start treatment immediately. If a person fails to begin proper treatment on time, there is a higher risk of complications that are very dangerous and can lead to death. The paper provides the general overview of pneumonia, its types, risk groups, as well as factors, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, complications, and the ways of its prevention.
General Overview of Pneumonia
Pneumonia is caused by a virus, bacteria, fungi, or chemicals (Normandin, 2015). In most cases, pneumonia is a result of the complication of the respiratory infection, mainly the flu. Therefore, the most common cause of the disease is the flu virus. The infection spreads in many ways. It can be transmitted via respiratory droplets when a sick person sneezes, coughs, talks, or just breathes. Moreover, the infectious agent spreads through blood, especially during the birth.
In winter, the number of ill people increases because other diseases, such as the flu or cold, are more common during that period of time. Besides, in winter the immune system is weak due to the lack of vitamins.
Types of the Disease
Currently, there are five major types of the disease. The first one is bacterial pneumonia that affects any person regardless of his or her age. It can begin on its own or after a cold or flu. The infectious agents of bacterial pneumonia are streptococcus pneumoniae, chlamydophila pneumoniae or legionella pneumophila (Normandin, 2015). Sometimes, pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia can be diagnosed in a person who is ill with cancer or AIDS. Viral pneumonia is the second type of disease that begins when respiratory viruses enter a body. As a rule, it affects infants and elderly people. Viral pneumonia is not as serious as bacterial one and it lasts for a shorter period of time (Normandin, 2015). However, pregnant women and individuals who suffer from heart or lung diseases may have complications. Mycoplasma agents are responsible for the third type of the disease called mycoplasma pneumonia. The current type usually affects teenagers and young adults and causes a mild case of pneumonia. The last two types include tuberculosis and pneumocystis carinii pneumonia that mat greatly harm people infected with AIDS (Normandin, 2015).
Risk Groups and Factors
Everybody can become infected with pneumonia. However, there are some risk groups of people who are more vulnerable to the disease. The first group includes newborns, infants, and individuals older than 65 years. The second one consists of people with weak immune system or the ones who receive chemotherapy (Normandin, 2015). Moreover, patients who are in hospitals can also become infected.
Besides, there are many risk factors that promote the development of the infection. They include smoking, alcohol abuse, viral respiratory (the flu, cold) and lung (bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis) diseases, cerebral palsy, serious illnesses (heart illnesses, liver cirrhosis), recent operations or traumas (Normandin, 2015).
Clinical Manifestations of Pneumonia
As a rule, the nose and airways do not allow germs present in the air to enter the lungs. However, if a person has a weak immune system or a virus is very strong, the body cannot protect itself from germs. Consequently, they reach lungs and make them inflamed. The organ fills with fluid or pus. After the infection begins to develop, the symptoms of pneumonia become visible.
The symptoms and signs of the disease may vary from mild to severe due to the type of the infectious agent, the person’s age, and his or her overall health. Mild symptoms often resemble the ones of a cold or flu but they last longer. The signs can develop either gradually or fast. The most typical symptoms of pneumonia include fever, chills, cough, excessive sweating, diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, chest pain, loss of appetite, confusion, trouble breathing, and headache (Normandin, 2015).
If a person has the aforementioned symptoms, he or she should visit a doctor as soon as possible. A doctor makes a diagnosis after the physical examination. As a rule, he or she listens to the lungs to check if a person has crackling sounds that show the presence of the disease. Besides, a doctor takes blood tests to identify the type of the germ causing the infection. Furthermore, chest X-ray, pulse oximetry, pleural fluid culture, sputum test, bronchoscopy, and CT scan may be necessary, as well (“How is pneumonia diagnosed?” 2011).
A chest X-ray is the most common test for diagnosing the disease as it shows immediately whether a person is ill or not. However, the test does not allow identifying a type of a germ a patient has.
For the pleural fluid culture test, a doctor takes some amount of the fluid from the pleural space. Such test helps determine a type of the germ responsible for the infection (Normandin, 2015).
For the pulse oximetry test, a device called sensor is put on the ear or finger (“How is pneumonia diagnosed?” 2011). It estimates the amount of oxygen in the blood as the disease prevents the lungs from giving enough oxygen to the bloodstream.
One more way to find out the germ responsible for the disease is to do the sputum test. While a patient coughs, a doctor collects a sample of sputum and examines it in the laboratory (“How is pneumonia diagnosed?” 2011).
To look inside the airways of the lungs, bronchoscopy is necessary. The procedure is used when treatment with antibiotics does not produce any effect. During bronchoscopy, a doctor puts a tube inside the patient’s nose or mouth and, in such way, reaches the airways. There is a small camera at the end of a tube that gives an opportunity to see the necessary organs and take pictures of them (“How is pneumonia diagnosed?” 2011).
The last test is a CT scan, which allows receiving the pictures of the lungs. It is similar to a chest X-ray, but its pictures provide more details (“How is pneumonia diagnosed?” 2011).
If a person is diagnosed with pneumonia, it is important to start treatment as soon as possible to avoid complications. Firstly, treatment depends on the severity of the disease and chronic illnesses a person has. If a patient has a mild case of pneumonia, he or she can be treated at home. Medical scientists have not found more effective medication than antibiotics. Therefore, proper treatment requires taking antibiotics prescribed by a doctor. During treatment, a patient should not take any cough medicine as coughing helps the body remove mucus from the lungs (“Diagnosing and treating pneumonia,” n.d.). Furthermore, a person should drink much liquid that helps decrease the number of secretions. Moreover, a patient should have enough rest and do not perform household chores. Then, it is necessary to control fever with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin, and acetaminophen. However, children should not take aspirin. If an individual experiences a severe case of pneumonia, he or she should be hospitalized. In the hospital, a person receives oxygen therapy, antibiotics directly in veins, and breathing treatments (“Diagnosing and treating pneumonia,” n.d.).
Secondly, treatment depends on the type of pneumonia. Bacterial pneumonia is cured with antibiotics. It is important to take them in accordance with doctor’s prescription. A person may start feeling better in a few days, but he or she should continue taking the medicine. If an individual refuses to complete treatment, pneumonia may return again. In case of viral pneumonia, antibiotics produce no effect. Therefore, a doctor prescribes antiviral drugs that help eradicate the disease. The symptoms of viral pneumonia disappear within one to three weeks (“Diagnosing and treating pneumonia,” n.d.).
It is vital to start the proper treatment as soon as possible, otherwise the complications may develop. The most frequent complications of pneumonia include a lung abscess, pleurisy, and blood poisoning (“Complications,” 2015).
Pleurisy is the inflammation of two layers (the pleura) that cover the lungs. Sometimes, the space between the lungs and wall of the chest can fill with fluid. Such process is called a pleural effusion. In such case, an ill person cannot breathe properly as the fluid creates pressure in the lungs. To relieve pain, a doctor drains the fluid using a thin tube or needle. As a rule, such complication disappears in the process of pneumonia treatment (“Complications,” 2015).
Lung abscess is a cavity filled with pus that appears inside the tissue of the lungs. It starts to develop mostly in people with severe case of pneumonia or a history of alcohol abuse. The signs of complications include a cough and swelling in fingers, as well as toes. Antibiotics are the main medication used for the treatment of the lung abscess. Most patients begin feeling better within three to four days. If antibiotics do not help, a patient needs surgery to remove pus from the lungs (“Complications,” 2015).
Blood poisoning is a dangerous complication of pneumonia that affects other organs. If the infection penetrates into the blood, it spreads throughout the body (“Complications,” 2015). The symptoms of blood poisoning are high fever, pale and cold skin, loss of consciousness, fast heartbeat, as well as breathing, and low blood pressure. Moreover, some elderly people may experience disorientation.
Everybody knows that it is better to prevent a disease than to cure it. Firstly, in order not to fall ill, a person should be vaccinated against the flu, pneumococcal pneumonia, and other agents causing the infection. Infants should be vaccinated as well because they are at a particular risk of suffering the disease (“How can pneumonia be prevented?” 2011). The vaccination should be given every winter. Secondly, it is vital to practice good hygiene as it prevents the spread of the infection. An individual should often wash hands, especially after going to the bathroom, blowing the nose, and before eating or cooking food (“How can pneumonia be prevented?” 2011). Moreover, he or she should use a tissue while coughing or sneezing. Thirdly, a person should quit smoking because it damages the lungs greatly. IN the result of smoking, the lungs lose their ability to fight dangerous germs. Therefore, smokers are at a higher risk of becoming infected with pneumonia. Moreover, children whose parents smoke are in danger of becoming infected, as well. Fourthly, it is important to develop good eating habits. The ration should include fruits and vegetables, especially the ones which contain vitamin C. Lastly, an individual should do regular exercises as they improve the immune system and promote fast recovery (“How can pneumonia be prevented?” 2011).
To summarize, pneumonia is a serious disease that attacks many people every year. Currently, the illness is treated very easily but it is vital to consult a doctor whenever a person experiences the first symptoms. The early diagnosis of pneumonia reduces the possibility of complications. However, it is always better to prevent the disease. Therefore, the necessary precautions to stay healthy should be followed by everyone.