What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is the inflammation of the lung’s air sacs. It is a serious lung infection that can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi.
What Is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is basically known to be an inflammation of the airspaces that are present in the lungs. it is said to be commonly caused due to infections. The leading causes of this infection are bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Apart from these, there are a few other non-infectious types of pneumonia as well, which are said to be caused due to inhaling or aspirating any foreign particles or any kind of toxic substance. In the United States alone, there have been around 50,000 cases registered of people dying each year due to pneumonia. There is no particular age as to when a person can get this infection; at any age, an individual can suffer from pneumonia. However, it is quite commonly seen in the elderly and those who have an impaired or weakened immune system due to any medical condition or past infection. Pneumonia, which affects anyone, can turn out to be a serious case, more so for those individuals with certain kinds of chronic medical issues or those who have an impaired immune system.
There are different ways in which pneumonia can be classified. Many a times, the doctors tends to refer to pneumonia based on the way in which the infection was acquired, which can be hospital acquired pneumonia or community acquired pneumonia. Let us look at both in detail:
- Hospital acquitted pneumonia, or HAP: This is known to be acquired when an individual is already in the hospital for another medical condition. It is a more serious case because pneumonia is known to be developed in patients who are already unwell or under medical care for some other reason. When an individual is on a ventilator for respiratory support, the chances of getting hospital acquired pneumonia tends to increase. It can also be acquired from other settings, such as nursing homes, when a patient is on kidney dialysis, or at outpatient clinics.
- Community acquired pneumonia, or CAP: This case, as the name applies, tends to develop outside of the hospital environment. This type of pneumonia is seen as a more common occurrence than the hospital acquired one. This type of pneumonia is mostly a common occurrence during the winter, wherein almost four million people alone in the United States are known to be affected.
A few of the other classifications in terms of types of pneumonia describe the way in which the inflammatory cells are said to infiltrate the tissues of the lung or the affected tissue’s appearance.
- Lobar pneumonia leads to inflammation in one of the lobes present in the lung and it can also involve all of the airspace in the single lobe.
- Bronchopneumonia is known to cause patchy or scattered infiltrates of inflammation in the air sacs, which can occur throughout the lungs.
In certain cases, the classification of pneumonia can also be done by the type of organism that is leading to the inflammation, such as viral pneumonia, bacterial pneumonia, or fungal pneumonia. The specific name of the organism can also be used, which can help in describing the exact type of pneumonia, such as pneumococcal, which is caused due to streptococcus, or it can be the Legionella pneumonia.
One of the common causes of bacterial pneumonia is streptococcus pneumonia. Another bacterium, which is legionella penumophila, is said to cause a different type of pneumonia, which is known as Legionnaires disease. A few of the other bacteria which can also lead to pneumonia are mycoplasma pneumonia, legionella penumophila, and haemophilus influenza. The haemophilus influenza is said to be a common type of bacteria that can cause pneumonia mostly in babies and children who are younger than five years of age. Elderly people who are above of the age of 65 years are said to be at an increased risk of getting haemophilus influenza pneumonia, too. In terms of viral pneumonia, the common cause in adults is the influenza virus. In the case of children, there are multiple respiratory-related viruses that can lead to pneumonia. The viral form of pneumonia is seen as less severe than the bacterial one, and there is also a risk of developing the secondary bacterial pneumonia when the individual is already suffering from viral pneumonia. A few of the other viruses that can lead to pneumonia are the varicella virus and the measles virus. The fungi which are known to cause pneumonia are coccidiodes, Cryptococcus, and histoplasma. In certain individuals, these fungi are not known to cause any illness, but in certain other individuals, it can lead to pneumonia. Those who are suffering from a weak immune system can easily contract fungal pneumonia. It can also affect those who are on medications for suppressing the functioning of the immune system.
Incubation Period for Pneumonia
Basically, the incubation period for pneumonia would depend upon the type of organism that is causing the disease. Apart from this, it is also dependent on certain characteristics of the individual, such as age, overall health condition, the severity of the health condition, and so on. In most cases of pneumonia, the symptoms that develop would look similar to a cold or the flu, but would last longer than flu symptoms.
The symptoms of pneumonia can turn out to be mild or it can become severe as well. It would also depend upon the characteristics of the individual mentioned earlier. Some of the severe symptoms that the individual may experience are: pain in the chest while coughing or breathing, fever that may become severe, chills, tiredness or signs of fatigue, shortness of breath or labored breathing, constant coughing, and coughing out phlegm. A few of the other potential symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. These are known to mostly accompany the respiratory-related symptoms. Pneumonia, in the case of children and infants, would not show any kind of specific symptoms, but the child may appear to be restless or cranky all the time, and they may tend to cough or vomit. There would also be instances of high fever.
Mostly for pneumonia, the doctor can prescribe antibiotic treatment options if it has been caused due to a fungal or bacterial organism. There are various factors that the doctor will consider before starting off with the treatment plan. Those factors are: the type of organism that is responsible for the infection, the current health condition of the patient, along with their age, and, lastly, the likelihood of the organism causing the infection to be resistant towards certain types of antibiotics. In around 75 to 80 percent of pneumonia cases, the infection can be managed at home, wherein the patient can start to take certain oral antibiotics. There are also multiple treatment options being made available; the initial treatment is also called empiric treatment, and it is mostly based on the organism that is thought to be responsible for the infection. Once this organism has been identified in the diagnosis and the doctor determines the antibiotic that can be effective on it, the doctor will then decide to individualize the treatment option.
In terms of viral pneumonia, antibiotics are not of much help. Based on the type of virus that has led to pneumonia, there can be certain antiviral medications being referred to by the doctor which can be of great help during the early course of the infection. For fungal pneumonia, the doctor can also refer to use antifungal agents.