X-Ray Results

Common Conditions

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is characterized by infection of the lungs with associated fluid and pus buildup in the alveoli, or sacs within the lungs. When the alveoli fill with fluid or pus it may cause a productive cough or make breathing difficult. Pneumonia symptoms range from mild to severe, and certain types of pneumonia, such as bacterial and viral pneumonia, can be contagious.

Cause

Pneumonia is caused by bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. Individuals are especially susceptible to pneumonia if they have had a recent infection such as cold or flu. In someone with pneumonia, the immune system causes inflammation in the alveoli, which in turn causes fluid and pus buildup in the lungs. Risk factors for pneumonia include smoking or secondhand smoke exposure, alcohol consumption, a weakened immune system, heart or lung disease such as CAD or COPD, hospitalization, toxic chemical exposure, pregnancy, and/or certain neurological conditions that cause difficulty coughing and swallowing. Individuals age 65 or older and individuals 2 years old or younger are also at greater risk for pneumonia.

Symptoms

Symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • Chest pain with breathing or coughing

  • Productive cough

  • Confusion

  • Fever and chills

  • Sweats

  • Weakness and Fatigue

  • Low body temperature

  • Shortness of breath

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Loss of appetite

  • Rapid and shallow breathing

  • Low oxygen levels (measured with a pulse oximeter)

  • Blueish color of lips and fingernails

  • Rapid pulse

  • Headache

  • Body aches

Treatment

Pneumonia is treated depending on the specific type of pneumonia. For bacterial pneumonia, antibiotics are usually prescribed, and for viral pneumonia, antiviral medications may be prescribed. Likewise, fungal pneumonia is often treated with prescribed antifungal medications. Your doctor may also recommend treating your symptoms with over-the-counter medication such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen. Always ask your doctor before taking any over-the-counter cough medicine with pneumonia. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required so doctors can provide oxygen therapy and give IV fluids.

Prevention

The best way to prevent pneumonia is to get the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine if you are under age 5, over age 65, or are at increased risk for pneumonia. Staying up to date on all other vaccines, such as receiving an annual flu shot or vaccinating your children for Hib (Haemophilus Influenzae type b) is also important in preventing pneumonia. Practicing good hygiene is important as well, especially washing your hands often, avoiding touching your face, and using hand sanitizer when available. To prevent pneumonia, it is always a good idea to quit smoking and to maintain a healthy immune system by getting plenty of sleep, getting regular exercise, and eating a healthy diet.

Resources

American Lung Association. (2020, October 23). Learn About Pneumonia. American Lung Association. https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/pneumonia/learn-about-pneumonia

Cleveland Clinic. (2020, June 15). Pneumonia. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4471-pneumonia#symptoms-and-causes

John Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Pneumonia. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/pneumonia

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, June 13). Pneumonia. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pneumonia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354204

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021, January 4). Pneumonia. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/pneumonia.html

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (n.d.). Pneumonia. National Institutes of Health. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/pneumonia

World Health Organization. (2019, August 2). Pneumonia. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/pneumonia.