Pneumonia - The In-depth of the Lung Disease, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment Overview
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs' alveoli or the air sacs, leading to inflammation. The condition causes the alveoli to fill up with purulent (pus-like) fluid.
The inflammation and the fluid in the alveoli are why most pneumonia patients would have fever, cough, and experience shortness of breath.
The word "pneumonia" is borrowed from the Greek and has two words in it. The lung in Greek is "Pneumon," while "ia" means disease. Therefore, pneumonia means lung disease.
Pneumonia is a common lung disease and especially in children. Every year, pneumonia cases in children are about 1400 of 100,000 pneumonia cases globally. The fatality rate of pneumonia in children under five years is about 800,000 yearly, which translates to 2,200 per day.
Pneumonia is prevalent with immunocompromised people, such as the aged of about 65 years and above. People with other diseases such as HIV and those receiving chemotherapy are also susceptible to pneumonia.
Is Pneumonia Contagious?
Yes, bacterial or viral pneumonia is contagious. It can spread from one person to the other through inhaling bacteria or virus germs.
Coughing or sneezing are the primary signs of pneumonia. When a person is sick with pneumonia, they can spread the pneumonia germs in the air or surfaces through coughing and sneezing out some droplets.
As a healthy person, you can become pneumonia infected by inhaling the germs suspended in the air or through contact when touching surfaces containing the germs. You can then transfer the pneumonia bacteria or virus to your mouth or nose and likely get infected.
However, fungal pneumonia is not transmissible. You can get it from inhaling fungi spores from a particular environment, such as birds' droppings.
What are the Alveoli and How Do They Work?
The alveoli are microscopic air sacs linked to the two of your vital body systems, the respiratory system and the circulatory system.
Millions of tiniest air sacs or alveoli are connected to bronchioles (small airways) on one end and the other end to some tiny blood vessels. The bronchioles are similar to small tubal branches that branch out from the bronchi (large airways).
The alveoli hold together in bunches, making them appear like clusters of grapes. They exchange the two gases, oxygen, and carbon dioxide, to and from the blood through the capillaries.
When you inhale oxygen, it enters your lungs through the nose then to the trachea. The gas moves on to the bronchi, then to the bronchioles, and finally to the alveoli. The alveoli then pass the oxygen to the tiny capillaries for onward transmission into the circulatory system for your body use.
Waste gas from the body passes through the bloodstream, enters the alveoli from the capillaries, and then to the lungs. The carbon dioxide takes the reverse route to be exhaled through the nose or mouth.
With pneumonia, the alveoli are infected by bacteria, viruses, and fungi. They become inflamed and then fill with purulent fluid causing breathing difficulties.
Doctors categorize pneumonia according to where or how you got it. For instance:
Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia (HAP). You acquire this type of pneumonia from a stay in the hospital when admitted for another health condition.
You can get infected with pneumonia germs in at least 48 hours of your hospital admission. The HAP-causing germs are often bacterial rather than viral. The HPA bacterial pneumonia is a severe type that mostly becomes resistant to antibiotics.
Most patients admitted in the hospital have weak immunity that may not fight off the pneumonia germs that might be rife in their surroundings. Therefore, they become vulnerable to hospital-acquired pneumonia.
Community-Acquired Pneumonia (CAP). When you are classified as having community-acquired pneumonia, it means that you got the infection outside the hospital, such as at home, work, or during recreation.
Community-acquired pneumonia can either be viral, bacterial, or fungal.
Aspiration Pneumonia. Aspiration pneumonia is caused by accidental inhalation of large amounts of drinks, food, saliva, or vomit into your lungs. The foreign material can enter your lungs instead of the stomach by swallowing, causing infection and pneumonia.
You can accidentally inhale the stuff when you are not in a position to control it.
If you get pneumonia from aspiration, it would mean that you may have swallowing problems such as the after-effects of stroke. Also, being intoxicated with alcohol or drugs is a high-risk factor of aspiration pneumonia.
Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP). A critically ill patient can contract pneumonia through mechanical ventilation.
Doctors attribute ventilator-associated pneumonia with a surgical patient, trauma, or a patient with acute respiratory disease who is or has been on mechanical ventilation.
VAP is primarily associated with microorganisms found in the equipment during the intubation process for ventilation. The disease can occur within 48 hours of ventilation therapy.
Health Care-Acquired Pneumonia. Health care-acquired pneumonia is similar to hospital-acquired pneumonia. You can get this class of pneumonia from visiting a hospital as an outpatient, such as for dialysis.
You are likely to contract antibiotic-resistant pneumonia from such an environment.
All pneumonia types range between mild, severe, and life-threatening. Children, senior adults above 65, and anyone with another chronic disease are at high risk of severe pneumonia.
What Causes Pneumonia?
Various infectious germs can cause pneumonia. The germs are in three categories, which define the type of pneumonia. The three types and causes of pneumonia are:
Bacterial pneumonia is the primary type of pneumonia, especially in adult community-acquired pneumonia. Streptococcus pneumoniae is the typical bacterium responsible for bacterial pneumonia.
Other bacteria that cause bacterial pneumonia are:
Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a bacteria that leads to "walking pneumonia," a mild type of pneumonia. People refer to it walking pneumonia because anyone who has it can go about their business or activities without showing any signs.
Legionella pneumophila. It is a bacteria that causes a type of bacterial pneumonia called Legionnaires' disease.
Haemophilus Influenzae. Haemophilus influenzae is an invasive bacteria type that can cause various kinds of bacterial infections. The most common among other infectious diseases of H. influenzae is pneumonia. Other H. influenzae infections include ear, bloodstream, and meningitis infection.
Symptoms of Bacterial Pneumonia
The bacterial pneumonia symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Mucus-producing cough
- Shortness of breath
- Congested and fast breathing
- High fever
Viral pneumonia is a type of pneumonia caused by various viruses. Most viral lung infections cause inflammation of the alveoli leading to pneumonia.
Viral pneumonia is highly infectious. The pneumonia-causing viruses spread the germs through droplets from sneezing and coughing of an infected person. You get infected through breathing in saliva or mucus droplets from pneumonia infected person.
You can also acquire lung disease by touching your nose or mouth with the hands that had previously touched a surface covered with the virus germs.
About thirty percent of pneumonia cases in the US are viral. Viral pneumonia is the second prevalent type of pneumonia following bacterial pneumonia.
Some of the various viruses that cause viral pneumonia are:
Influenza (Flu). Flu is a common infection in winter. Most flu infections pass without causing pneumonia. However, when the flu becomes serious, it can lead to severe and deadly pneumonia, prevalent in children.
Rhinovirus. Rhinovirus more often leads to upper respiratory tract infection. However, it can extend to the lower respiratory tract and into alveoli to cause complicated illnesses such as pneumonia.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus. RSV is another common cause of pneumonia, especially in infants below one year, which causes inflammation of the bronchioles. It resembles a bad cold with a cough, runny nose, and fever.
Coronavirus. Coronavirus such as SARS or COVID-19 can cause novel coronavirus-infected pneumonia (NCIP).
Pneumonia from COVID-19 can progress to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). It can further advance to respiratory failure when the alveoli become fluid-filled, leading to breathing difficulties, asphyxia, and even death.
Symptoms of Viral Pneumonia
Viral pneumonia symptoms are not much different from bacterial pneumonia. However, the symptoms differ slightly with the specific virus, age, and individual's health condition.
The typical initial symptoms of viral pneumonia include:
- Dry cough
- Fever with low or high temperature
- Muscle pain
- Loss of appetite
- As viral pneumonia progresses and becomes severe, you can experience the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- A cough that produces phlegm that can either be green or yellow
- Chills and shaking
Additional symptoms can occur when a specific bacteria invade viral pneumonia to make it more complicated in diagnosing and treating it.
Considering your age and the health of your immune system, whether weak or strong, viral pneumonia can become worse or improve after two weeks, even without treatment.
As the name implies, fungal pneumonia is a lung infection caused by fungi. The fungi can either be opportunistic, endemic, or a combination of both.
Pneumocystis pneumoniais is a type of fungal pneumonia prevalent with immunocompromised patients and people with chronic diseases such as cancers.
Fungal pneumonia is often an environmental type of pneumonia that can occur when you inhale a large dose of spores, bird droppings, and other fungi from the soil.
Some of the different fungi that cause pneumonia are as follows:
Pneumocystis Jirovecii. Pneumocystis jirovecii is a fungal that causes pneumocystis pneumoniais, a type of fungal infection.
Cryptococcus. Cryptococcus is a fungus that causes cryptococcal pneumonia, most prevalent with immunosuppressed or immunodeficiency individuals.
Histoplasma Capsulatum. Histoplasma capsulatum is an environmental fungus that you can pick from inhaling airborne spores or bird droppings. It can cause histoplasmosis and pneumonia, among other lung infections.
Symptoms of Fungal Pneumonia
The following are fungal pneumonia symptoms:
- Nonproductive cough or pneumonia without phlegm
- Dull chest discomfort or pain
- Shortness of breath
While any age-group can get pneumonia, some people, especially those with a compromised immune system, are more at high risk of the disease than others.
Classification of Pneumonia Different Types
Classification of pneumonia is useful in identifying and distinguishing different factors of the disease. Although classifying the condition does not affect the treatment, it is a way the doctors use to describe a specific pneumonia type in the medical reports.
Lobar Pneumonia. Lobar pneumonia can either be upper, middle, and lower lobe pneumonia. An x-ray examination can distinguish between the three types of lobar pneumonia.
Your lung is made of different lobes. When an entire lung lobe is affected, your doctor can define it by referring to the affected lobe, such as the upper lobe, middle lobe, or lower lobe pneumonia.
Bronchopneumonia. Bronchopneumonia is a pneumonia type that affects several lobes in both lungs. Mostly it can affect both the airways and the air sacs, which are the bronchi and the alveoli. The airways become constricted, causing breathing difficulties.
Who is at Risk of Pneumonia?
There are a few categories of people susceptible to pneumonia which includes:
- Infants and children below two years
- Senior adults above 65 years
- Anyone with asthma or other chronic diseases such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), heart failure, stroke, cystic, and other respiratory infections can be prone to pneumonia.
- Anyone with a weak immune system and has another chronic disease or using certain medicines.
- Patients on cancer treatment.
- A patient who had been or is on a ventilator
If you are in any of the categories mentioned above, you should maintain hygiene and good health to minimize your disease risk. You may medical attention immediately if you have an onset of flu or cold, the two pneumonia precursors.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Typically, pneumonia is a contagious and severe lung disease with a high mortality rate. The more the disease progresses, the more complicated it becomes to treat it, and the closer it may be fatal.
It is also essential to immediately seek medical attention when you experience some pneumonia symptoms to prevent other complications.
Some of the symptoms are productive or nonproductive cough, difficulty breathing, chest pains, and bluish color on your fingertips and lips.
It would be better you don't wait for the symptoms to progress and become severe. Early treatment can be easy and effective.
Pneumonia is a lung disease that can pose challenges when diagnosing it. Most often, it mimics other lung diseases with some similar symptoms.
Pneumonia signs can also vary with individuals depending on the immune system's reaction towards the pneumonia causing-germ.
Besides the few challenges, your doctor can use the following therapies to get the right diagnosis:
The initial stage of diagnosis is to know more about your medical background. Your doctor might ask a few questions about your personal and health experience. It will help in diagnosing the disease if your doctor knows the reason behind your condition.
Besides your medical background, your doctor might ask you to specify how you feel and what you are experiencing from your form of pneumonia.
A physical examination would involve checking the body temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate, respiratory rate, or breathing rate per minute.
While using a stethoscope, most doctors ask their patients to say "ninety-nine" while listening to the different sounds in parts of the lungs for specific pneumonia lung sounds. A coarse crackle sound would signify the presence of pneumonia.
Sputum Test. Your doctor may need to collect a sample of your sputum to check the source and the infection type.
Blood Test. A blood test is useful in identifying the pneumonia germ, whether virus, bacteria, or fungi.
Pneumonia X-Ray. The images from pneumonia chest x-ray would show the infection's extent and the chest's most affected area.
Pulse Ox. Your doctor would use a pulse oximeter to measure the saturated oxygen level in your red blood cells. The exam is mostly for a patient with difficulty breathing.
CT Scan (Computed Tomography). Your doctor would find it necessary to use a CT scan to get more explicit images of your chest and the extent of the pneumonia infection and inflammation.
Pleural Fluid Culture. Your doctor might obtain a fluid sample from your pleural area using a needle and syringe by inserting it between your ribs. The fluid collected is useful to identify which germ is causing the infection.
Bronchoscopy. Bronchoscopy is a procedure that helps to view what could be blocking the lung's airways other than fluid or pus. It is a procedure helpful in the nonresponding pneumonia treatment. The process can also be useful in lung tissue biopsy.
After successfully diagnosing these and many other procedures, your doctor may take you through different treatment processes.
Treating pneumonia would vary with your type of pneumonia. The following are treatments for the different kinds of pneumonia:
Bacterial Pneumonia Treatment
Bacterial pneumonia treatment would primarily require antibiotics. Your doctor would prescribe some antibiotics that would target the bacterium that is causing the infection.
Your doctor may also prescribe some coughing syrup to ease and help phlegm production. Other medicines included in the treatment of bacterial pneumonia would reduce fever and relieve aches and pains.
For severe cases, hospitalization would be the choice solution. Administration of IV antibiotics and to have closer monitoring would be the primary reason for hospitalization.
Viral Pneumonia Treatment
Viral pneumonia might not need any antibiotics for treatment. Your doctor may prescribe some antiviral medicines specifically for your case.
Depending on the virus type that is causing your viral pneumonia, the antiviral medications may include:
Fungal Pneumonia Treatment
The suitable antifungal agents for treating fungal pneumonia would include:
For severe cases such as immunocompromised patients, constant and closer surveillance would be necessary. Therefore, you may require hospital admission for IV therapy and other aggressive disease management strategies for such a patient.
Pneumonia Natural Treatment
You can opt to get a natural treatment for pneumonia using various remedies. Your natural treatment physician can plan the right therapies according to your diagnosis and other findings.
Pneumonia Treatment at Home
While receiving your treatment, whether conventional or natural, you are entirely responsible for managing pneumonia symptoms while at home. You can manage your disease at home by following these steps:
Take your drugs religiously without missing out on any of them. Follow your doctor's instructions to the letter to synchronize your expected results with the treatment.
Take enough fluids to help loosen the phlegm and expel it with ease. The idea behind coughing is to release the mucus that contains the germs or microorganisms out of your lungs.
Therefore, avoid using medicines to stop coughing. Instead, use some coughing syrup that would help you disengage phlegm from your lungs for ease of producing it.
If you smoke cigarettes or use alcohol excessively, you should stop. Smoke can irritate your lungs to exacerbate coughing. On the other hand, alcohol can weaken your immune system, which plays a significant role in fighting pneumonia-causing germs.
Eat a healthy diet to support and strengthen your immune system.
If you get your treatment early enough, you are not likely to experience any complications from your case of pneumonia.
However, anyone with a compromised immune system, children, and senior adults are at risk of having complications if they fail to procure timely and proper treatment.
The following are some of the pneumonia complications:
Germ dissemination - the pneumonia germs can disseminate to other critical areas of your body such as the brain, meninges, kidneys, heart, liver, eyes, or the spleen to cause damage.
ARDS (acute respiratory distress) - is a critical respiratory failure that would require a medical emergency.
Lung abscesses - Lung abscesses are cavities in the lungs that fill with pus caused by an infection and hence may require drainage.
Pneumonia can lead to acute respiratory failure even in the absence of ARDS. That can suddenly happen without warning. Such a situation can be fatal.
Difficulty in breathing leads to a lack of enough oxygen, which may cause asphyxia, heart, liver, or kidney damage.
Pleural effusion - It is an inflammation and damaging of the pleural (the outer cover of your lungs) by some fluid that develops in the pleura area of your lungs.
The immune system responds in releasing some chemicals into the bloodstream to fight pneumonia germs such as bacteria. Such a reaction can further complicate pneumonia with sepsis, which may risk you to multiple organ damage.
Necrotizing pneumonia - is a critical pneumonia stage that is very complicated to treat.
How Can You Prevent the Spread of Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is highly contagious and, therefore, strict measures to prevent the spread are necessary. To help yourself stay clear of pneumonia as much as you can, you need to do the following:
- Avoid contact with surfaces in public areas such as rails, counters, doors, and others.
- Wash or sanitize your hands frequently.
- Before you eat or handle any food, use soap and water to wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes before washing your hands with soap or other detergents to avoid infecting yourself with any pneumonia and other germs.
- Wear a mask to protect yourself from airborne germs you may contract when people cough or sneeze, especially in public areas.
Pneumonia Disease Complementary and Alternative Therapy
There are various alternative treatments for lung health issues, namely pneumonia. However, you may require consulting your health practitioner for the best therapy and advice. The following are some of the recommendations from our natural health practitioner, Yvonne Dollar Perc.
The following are our recommendations for a healthy lung.
Lobelia Extract, 59 ml - Lobelia has a long history of use in traditional herbal medicine as an expectorant for the upper respiratory tract. Expectorants help the body to remove excess mucus from the respiratory tract. Lobelia is thought to accomplish this by relaxing and soothing the respiratory tract to allow for the expulsion of mucus.
Garlic, High Potency, 60 Tablets - Traditionally used in Herbal Medicine to help relieve the symptoms associated with upper respiratory tract infections and catarrhal conditions. Used in Herbal Medicine to help reduce elevated blood lipid levels/hyperlipidemia and maintain cardiovascular health in adults.
Olive Leaf Ext (60 Caps) – Olive Leaf Extract contains oleuropein, a glucoside compound concentrated in the leaves of the olive tree, and has been highly researched for its powerful antioxidant properties. Conclusion
As you have learned, pneumonia is highly contagious. If you have pneumonia, it would be better to maintain your family members' and friends' safety against the infection. You can do that by limiting contact with them to prevent spreading the disease.
Use your prescription according to your doctor's instructions. An unfinished dose would risk you into a recurrence drug-resistant pneumonia that would be difficult to treat.
Some of the standard drugs your doctor may prescribe can have some severe side effects. Please do not discontinue taking them before you discuss the issue with your doctor. Your doctor might replace it with a new prescription.
Do you prefer to use natural treatment for your pneumonia condition?
Please do not shy to discuss health issues with our Natural Health Practitioner and Master Herbalist, Yvonne.
Yvonne uses the latest technology with suitable modern tools to make a precision diagnosis. Natural treatment methods, distinct for your case, would immediately ease your discomfort, pain, and restore your health.
To book for an appointment with Yvonne, you can call us using our telephone number +250.468.7685. And if you can't make it to our Island Healthworks Natural Health Clinic, you can use the same number for an on-phone consultation.
We hope you learned all you could concerning pneumonia. Please take care of yourself to care for others.
Do you have any questions concerning this topic or any other, including any herbal remedy you would wish to know?
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This article is intended for educational purposes and the information contained within is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any disease or health problem. Please seek appropriate medical attention for any health complaints. We cannot take responsibility for your health care decisions. Our intent is only to offer health information to help you with your search for better health.