Pneumonia – Definition, Types, Symptoms, and Treatments
Pneumonia is an umbrella term that describes an active infection occurring in the lung tissue. The severity of pneumonia ranges from mild fever and cough to a life-threatening condition known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
By far, individuals above the age of 65 years old are the most susceptible to develop severe forms of pneumonia.
In this article, we will discuss the main types of pneumonia, how it presents clinically, and the available treatment options.
The main types of pneumonia
As the name implies, this infection results from bacterial overgrowth, affecting the lung tissue. As a result, immune cells get recruited to the site of microbes, precipitating a widespread inflammatory reaction.
The primary routes of transmission include being near sick individuals and touching contaminated surfaces.
The treatment of bacterial pneumonia consists of a short course of antibiotics.
The germs that cause viral pneumonia are often responsible for inducing the common cold and influenza.
Just like bacterial infections, viral pneumonia gets transmitted from one sick individual to another (e.g., respiratory droplets, airborne transmission).
Note that young, healthy individuals may only experience a mild case of cough and fever, whereas older persons develop full-blown pneumonia.
Other types of pneumonia
- Atypical pneumonia
- Aspiration pneumonia
- Nosocomial pneumonia
Signs and symptoms of pneumonia
Pneumonia presents with a variety of signs and symptoms that resemble other infectious processes.
There may include:
- Chest pain
- Dyspnea (i.e., shortness of breath)
- Digestive symptoms (e.g., diarrhea, nausea, vomiting)
Interestingly, doctors face difficulties when attempting to diagnose pneumonia in older individuals due to poor clinical presentation. In other words, elderly adults do not present with the classic symptoms of pneumonia listed above.
The reason for this is simple:
Older individuals often have a weakened immune system. As a result, they are unable to launch a potent inflammatory reaction to manifest symptoms.
Treatment of pneumonia
The treatment of pneumonia covers two aspects:
- Symptomatic therapy
- Specific therapy
The initial approach centers on relieving the patient’s suffering by controlling the symptoms, which actually doesn’t tackle the underlying cause.
For example, if the patient is suffering from chills, fever, and muscular pain, your doctor may give you a prescription for acetaminophen to relieve these symptoms.
Your doctor may also prescribe Antitussive drugs to control the coughing, but only after he has identified the specific germ and started the patient on a treatment plan.
The targeted treatment centers around finding the exact germ and then targeting that germ which is triggering the symptoms.
When bacterial pneumonia is present, your physician will prescribe antibiotics (e.g., penicillin, macrolides) to attack and kill the bacteria or to stop them from multiplying.
Viral pneumonia often gets treated symptomatically, as we don’t have many antiviral medications; however, if an elderly adult presents with a severe form of viral pneumonia, the doctor may administer an antiviral drug.
Pneumonia is a very common infectious disease that affects nearly 450 million people worldwide every year. The most severe forms are seen in the elderly.
Hopefully, this article helped you become more familiar with the main types, symptoms, and treatments of pneumonia.