Pneumonia is an inflammatory illness of the lungs. Pneumonia can result from a variety of causes, including infection with bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites, and chemical or physical injury to the lungs. Typical symptoms associated with pneumonia include cough, chest pain, fever and difficulty breathing. Diagnostic tools include x-rays and examination of the sputum. Treatment depends on the cause of the pneumonia; bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics.
Signs and Symptoms
People with infectious pneumonia often have a cough producing greenish or yellow sputum, or phlegm and a high fever that may be accompanied by shaking chills. Shortness of breath is also common, as is pleuritic chest pain, a sharp or stabbing pain, Either experienced during deep breaths or coughs or worsened by it. People with pneumonia may cough up blood, experience headaches, or develop sweaty and clammy skin. Other possible symptoms are loss of appetite, fatigue, blueness of the skin, nausea, vomiting, mood swings, and joint pains or muscle aches. Symptoms of pneumonia need immediate medical evaluation. Physical examination by a health care provider may reveal fever or sometimes low body temperature, an increased respiratory rate, low blood pressure, a high heart rate, or a low oxygen saturation. People who are struggling to breath, who are confused or who have cyanosis (blue-tinged skin) require immediate attention. Diagnosing pneumonia can be difficult in some people, especially those who have other illness. Occasionally a chest CT scan or other tests may be needed to distinguish pneumonia from other illness.
Most cases of pneumonia can be treated without hospitalization. Typically, oral antibiotics, rest, fluids, and home care are sufficient for complete resolution. However people with pneumonia who are having trouble breathing, people with other medical problems, and the elderly may need more advanced treatment. If symptoms get worse, and pneumonia does not improve with home treatment, or complications occur, the person will often have to be hospitalized. The duration of treatment has traditionally been seven to ten days, but there is increasing evidence that shorter courses are sufficient. Vaccination is important for preventing pneumonia in both children and adults. In the U.S. it is currently recommended for all healthy individuals older than 65 and any adults with emphysema, congestive heart failure, diabetes mellitus, cirrhosis of the liver, alcoholism or those who do not have a spleen. A repeat vaccination may also be required after five or ten years.