When bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites enter the lungs causing an infection, this is known as Pneumonia. Though Pneumonia can affect anyone at any age, it's more common in the elderly (above 65 years old), young children and those with compromised immune systems. Pneumonia tends to obstruct the efficient exchange of air within the lungs, leading to lower levels of oxygen in the blood as well as the impaired removal of carbon dioxide from the body. The severity of Pneumonia ranges from mild to life threatening and depends on various factors.
Pneumonia has the ability to affect anyone at any age and can also be triggered by cold or flu infections. There are certain factors that increase the risk of susceptibility to Pneumonia such as:
- People who have a weakened immune system, due to AIDS or cancer, are also at high risk of developing Pneumonia.
- Various microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites can cause Pneumonia.
- Young children are considered most susceptible to Pneumonia, as well as the elderly, who may suffer from chronic illnesses such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, diabetes and congestive heart failure.
- Viral pneumonia often affects people living in areas where there are epidemics of respiratory viral infections including SARS and influenza.
The symptoms exhibited by Pneumonia patients tend to differ considerably but this highly depends on the health condition of the patient. These may include:
- Blue tinge to skin, lips, tongue and fingertips due to lack of oxygen
- Breathing difficulty and wheezing
- Chest pain when breathing and coughing
- Fever and chills
- Green or yellow-coloured sputum
The course of treatment depends on what causes the infection in the first place and your physician will evaluate your condition before they suggest the most appropriate form of treatment such as:
- Antibiotics to treat bacterial Pneumonia
- Antiviral medication to treat viral Pneumonia
- Hospitalisation may be required for severe cases of Pneumonia to receive intravenous antibiotics and oxygen supply
- Medication to alleviate Pneumonia symptoms including cough, fever, chest pains and muscle aches (given together with suggested antibiotics and antiviral medication)
- Plenty of bed rest, a healthy diet and lots of fluid may be enough to treat mild viral Pneumonia
Complications and Related Diseases
Because Pneumonia is a type of respiratory infection, this can progress to all sorts of other related complications such as:
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome if pneumonia affects both lungs, leading to gas exchange failure
- Bacteraemia (due to bacteria entering the blood)
- Emphysema (infection of the lung airways)
- Lung abscess
- Pleural effusion (fluid accumulation between chest wall and the lung)
- Septic shock can trigger circulation failure and lead to kidney failure and blood clotting abnormalities