Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lungs and it is explained as a lung parenchyma/alveolar inflammation and abnormal alveolar filling with fluid. The alveoli are sack-like structures found in the lungs which are responsible for the exchange of gases in the respiratory system — capturing the inhaled oxygen and releasing the exhaled carbon dioxide. When the alveoli fill with fluids, their intended function is dangerous hampered. Research has uncovered over one hundred strains of infectious microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that have been known to cause pneumonia, but the most frequent culprits are the various kinds of bacteria and viruses. Pneumonia can also be caused by exposure to chemicals and other irritants as well as by physical injury to the lungs or by unknown causes, in which case the disease is said to be idiopathic.
Pneumonia is quite a common disease and it can affect any age group throughout the world but the most vulnerable are the very young, the elderly, those who are suffering other chronic or terminal diseases and those with impaired immune systems. Statistical research shows that more than sixty thousand people die of pneumonia annually in the United States alone and that it is a leading cause of death among children around the world.
Clinical Classifications of Pneumonia
Pneumonia is usually classified by its distinctive characteristics and its level of severity which can ranch from the very slight to the very serious and life-threatening:
- The Community-Acquired Pneumonia (CAP) classification of pneumonia includes the infectious types which are the most frequently occurring among those who have not recently been hospitalized. “Walking pneumonia” is included in the CAP classification and it is the mildest form of pneumonia.
- Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia (HAP) is also known as the nosocomial pneumonia and it is contracted in a hospital setting. Because patients in hospitals are more vulnerable with weakened systems and because they are exposed to many more serious bacteria, HAP tends to be most life-threatening. Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP) is part of the HAP classification and it is contracted through intubation and mechanical ventilation. Sadly, approximately five percent of patients who are admitted to the hospital for reasons other than pneumonia, contract it anyway.
- Acute Pneumonia lasts less than three weeks.
- Chronic Pneumonia persists much longer than three weeks.
- Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was first identified during a 2002 outbreak in China and it is an extremely contagious and fatal type of pneumonia caused by SARS coronavirus.
- Bronchilitis Obliterans Organizing Pneumonia (BOOP) is also called cryptogenic organizing pneumonitis (COP) and it is characterized by inflamed airways of the lungs.
- Eosinophilic Pneumonia affects specific types of white blood cells called eosinophils.
- Chemical Pneumonia or chemical pneumonitis is caused by toxins or pesticides which are inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
- Lipoid Pneumonia is a result of an invasion of toxic oils.
- Aspiration Pneumonia or aspiration pneumonitis is usually caused by food particles that involuntarily enter the airway passages during eating or vomiting. This has been named as a leading cause of death among hospital and nursing home patients.
- Dust Pneumonia is caused by prolonged exposure to dust storms.
- Necrotizing Pneumonia causes lung cells to die prematurely (necrosis) and may also cause abscesses within the lungs.
- Opportunistic Pneumonia affects individuals whose immune systems have been compromised.
- Lobar Pneumonia involves only a single portion or lobe of the lung.
- Multilobar Pneumonia engages more than one lobe and tends to be more severe than the lobar pneumonia.
- 1Interstitial Pneumonia or interstitial pneumonitis affects the area between the alveoli.
Symptoms of Pneumonia
Regardless of its cause or classification, most symptoms of pneumonia arise abruptly and they may include: sharp chest pain, high fever, chills and shivering, cough which produces yellow to green sputum or phlegm and often blood, headaches, sweaty and clammy skin, labored breathing or shortness of breath, bluish tint to the skin, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, mood swings, joint and muscle pain, abdominal cramping and diarrhea, mental confusion and imbalance.
Treatments for Pneumonia
The method for treating pneumonia depends greatly on its cause and the great majority of them require hospitalization. Pneumonia caused by bacteria is treated by any number of antibiotic drugs administered orally along with plenty of fluids and bed rest as well as intubation and artificial ventilation.
Viral pneumonia is more difficult to control as treatment must begin within 48 hours from the onset of symptoms or it becomes ineffective. Some of the medications may include rimantadine, amantadine, oseltamivir or zanamivir. There are several types of viral pneumonia which completely resist any known treatment.
Preventing pneumonia is much easier than attempting to cure it. Therefore, measures should be taken to treat underlying conditions which can ultimately make individuals susceptible to pneumonia. In addition, smokers should cease smoking and drinkers of alcohol should stop drinking. And lastly, children as well as adults should be immunized as vaccinations against several types of pneumonia are now available.
Administering antibiotics to pregnant women who test positive for certain bacteria has shown to reduce the risk of pneumonia in newborns. Furthermore, suctioning mouths and throats of infants prevents aspiration pneumonia.