Pneumonia is characterized by inflammation of the air sacs, which get filled with fluid, thereby causing symptoms like shortness of breath. Pneumonia can be caused by various microorganisms, as well as injury to the lungs. The acute form of the disease, or acute pneumonia is a serious condition, especially in the elderly and young children. In kids younger than five years, pneumonia is a leading cause of death. Acute pneumonia is characterized by a sudden onset of symptoms that worsen rapidly, while the chronic form of the disease worsens over an extended period.
Pneumonia is caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, virus, fungi or protozoa. Bacteria are the most common microorganisms, that have been found to cause pneumonia. Usually, they enter the body through the mouth, nose, and eyes; and infect the lungs, especially the air sacs or alveoli. Pneumonia is more commonly found to affect the lower lobes of the lungs. Apart from microorganisms, this medical condition may develop from an injury or damage to the lungs, caused by exposure to certain chemicals and radiation. So, people who receive aspiration or radiation therapy are also prone to develop this condition.
The symptoms of acute pneumonia may vary slightly, depending upon the cause. However, flu-like symptoms are often found to be among the initial signs of the disease, which worsens rapidly. Given below is a list of some of the common symptoms of the acute form of pneumonia.
- Fever with chills
- Chest pain
- Breathing difficulty
- Coughing and wheezing
- Sore throat
- Increase in heart rate
- Flushed cheeks
- Profuse sweating
- Bluish color to the nail bed and lips
Pneumonia is diagnosed through physical examination of the patient, chest X-ray, and blood and mucus tests. Bacterial pneumonia is usually treated with antibiotics like penicillin, amoxicillin, erythromycin, clarithromycin, etc. Antibiotics are usually not used for treating viral pneumonia. The most commonly used medications for viral pneumonia are rimantadine, amantadine, oseltamivir, and zanamivir. However, antibiotics would be required for acute viral pneumonia, if it is accompanied with a secondary bacterial infection of the lungs. Generally, the patient is advised to take adequate rest and adopt a balanced diet to ensure speedy recovery. In case of severe congestion and breathing difficulties, oxygen therapy or mechanical ventilation will be required.
Sometimes, acute pneumonia may lead to certain serious complications like pleuritis, pericarditis, or endocarditis. In pleuritis, fluid accumulation takes place in between the pleural layers and inner chest wall. The condition can cause chest pain, cough, and shortness of breath. In pericarditis, the tissues of the pericardium (the membrane that surrounds the heart) become inflamed. Endocarditis is characterized by inflammation of the inner lining of the heart and heart valves. To avoid such complications, pneumonia should be treated at the earliest.
In order to prevent recurrence of pneumonia, practice good hygiene and control risk factors such as smoking and alcohol abuse. Proper community hygiene is as important as personal hygiene. Acute pneumonia can be more dangerous in small kids, elderly people, and those with chronic diseases that weaken the immune system. Pneumonia shots are often recommended, so as to prevent the condition.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.