Pneumonia is an infection of the alveoli or the air sacs, distal airways and lung tissue. The lungs are usually spongy tissue. In pneumonia, the spongy consistency is replaced by consolidation, because the air sacs are filled with white blood cells and red blood cells. This consolidation makes oxygen exchange difficult. Pneumonia can be mild, only affecting part of the lung. But in some cases, the whole lung can be affected and can be life-threatening.
1. cough with rust colored sputum
2. chest pain that increases with deep breathing
3. difficulty in breathing, or shortness of breath
4. high fever, chills, and rigor
5. muscle ache, headache, and fatigue
Examination of the patient may show increased rate of breathing, chest auscultation may show crackles and percussion may yield dullness. X-ray of the chest is used for definitive diagnosis. Sputum culture and blood culture may be needed to yield the causative organism.
Pneumonia can be bacterial, viral, or fungal. Bacterial pneumonia causative organisms include: Streptococcal pneumonia- occurring as a complication of the common cold or flu. Legionella pneumonia is spread through air-conditioning ducts and collections of water. Staphylococcus aureus pneumonia affects hospitalized patients, especially the very young and old in age. Klebsiella and Pseudomonas pneumonia are also hospital acquired.
Viral pneumonia can be caused by Chicken Pox virus or Varicella, and flu viruses. Fungi and protozoans can also cause pneumonia, which are usually mild, but can be very serious in immunocompromised patient.
Pneumonia can be a major cause of death even in young adults. But recovery rates have improved because of increased effectiveness of antibiotics. Older patients and those with other diseases, it is still a very dangerous disease.
Patients with mild form of the disease can be treated as outpatients. Analgesics can be given to reduce pain and fever symptoms. Antibiotics and antifungals are prescribed according to culture and sensitivity to the specific organisms. Hospitalization may be needed in elderly patients, young children and in severe cases, along with iv antibiotics. Supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation may also be needed. Chest physiotherapy helps to clear secretions.
Infection can spread to the pleura or lung coverings, causing pleurisy and pleural effusion- or a collection of fluid outside the lung, causing compression of the lung tissue. Organisms can also enter the blood stream, leading to sepsis. Respiratory failure is a serious complication which can be fatal.
People with increased risk should receive pneumococcal vaccine every 5 years. This group includes elderly patients over the age of 65, patients with serious lung, heart, liver and kidney diseases, diabetics, patients with leukemia and lymphoma, and patients with HIV or AIDS.