Pneumonia is primarily an infection of the lungs and is caused due to microorganisms like bacteria, fungi or viruses. There are nearly 30 to 50 microorganisms that cause pneumonia which makes it difficult to trace the exact microorganism responsible for the pneumonia infection. According to the recent reports, nearly 3 million people in the United States develop pneumonia every year and pneumonia is the sixth leading cause of deaths in the United States.
Adults who are younger than 65 usually experience the symptoms of pneumonia with the beginning of simple cold or flu. The symptoms generally start suddenly with instances of severe cold, flu or upper respiratory infections. In many cases of pneumonia, the germ or the microorganism invades the lung tissue and causes swelling in it. Swelling in the lungs causes the accumulation of fluids in the air sacs of the lungs which hinders the lungs ability to take oxygen and move it to different parts of the body that require oxygen. Pneumonia can be acquired at home, in communities and in nursing homes.
Many cases of pneumonia appear when the person inhales the air containing the pneumonia causing microorganisms. This usually happens in public places when the person suffering from pneumonia sneezes or coughs, without putting a handkerchief on the mouth. The germs traveling in the air enter through the respiratory passage and eventually affect the lungs. Once the microorganisms infiltrate the nose and enter the lungs, they settle into the air sacs of the lungs and start growing in numbers. This area of the lung that fights the infections, gets filled with pus or fluid.
Pneumonia symptoms in the elderly are as follows:
- Upper respiratory infections like common cold or influenza.
- Production of large amount of mucus or sputum from the lungs. The mucus will appear rusty or green or containing some amounts of blood in it.
- Fever ranging from mild to high degrees.
- Shortness of breath and a feeling of discomfort while breathing.
- Extreme pain in the chest while coughing and breathing.
- Fast Heartbeat.
- Nausea and Vomiting.
Pneumonia symptoms in adults can vary depending on the history of the patient and the resistance power of the immune system. For the diagnosis, the doctor may tap the chest of the patient and listen to the breath sounds with a stethoscope. The doctor may also ask the patient for a blood test (to detect concentration of oxygen in the blood) and X-ray so that he can trace the exact problem and the cause behind the infection. Testing the phlegm is also common while detecting the presence of pneumonia. Normally, either you will show viral or bacterial pneumonia symptoms and so the GP won't advise for some advance level tests. However, in case the microorganism causing pneumonia has not been traced, the GP can recommend some tests like the phlegm test.
Generally, pneumonia patients can be treated at home but in case the person is seriously ill, the GP may refer to a hospital for additional help. In the hospital, the nurses will assist the patient by providing treatment in the form of antibiotics which will either be in the form of tablets or through a drip. If the microorganism responsible for pneumonia is a virus, then the antibiotics won't work and your GP would have to give you some other treatments. It is to be noted that bacterial pneumonia is always treated with antibiotics however viral pneumonia requires several other medications as suggested by the medical practitioner. By analyzing blood samples and phlegm, the doctor will be able to identify the organism which triggered the disease. Generally after 4 to 5 days of treatment, the patient is well enough to return home, however, the patient needs to exercise care so that the symptoms don't resurface due to infection relapses.
The onset of pneumonia symptoms is marked by chest pain and coughing and so one should not ignore the initial symptoms of pneumonia. Following a healthy lifestyle and quitting unhealthy habits like smoking, can go a long way in keeping the immune system healthy, and this would indirectly help the body to fight against pneumonia infections.