Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lung tissue. This condition is usually caused by infectious agents such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi, but it can also be caused by chemical or mechanical injury to the lung tissue. In previously healthy persons, pneumonia is generally well managed, but there are subpopulations of patients in which pneumonia can cause serious damage and even death. Those are patients with obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, heart failure, and immobile patients. Of course, severity of pneumonia also depends on the causative factor.
Most commonly, pneumonia begins with cough which can sometimes produce bloody or green secretion. Chest pain associated with pneumonia is caused by irritation and inflammation of pleura (membrane that surrounds the lungs) and it usually has sharp, stabbing character. The pain gets worse during the cough or deep breath. Fever is almost always present, and body temperature is usually higher in bacterial than in viral pneumonia. Other typical symptoms of infective syndrome are also present, including fatigue, low appetite, and headache.
After performing physical examination, your doctor can suspect pneumonia, but the diagnosis needs to be confirmed by chest X-ray. Blood test results will probably show increased white blood cells count, which points to the infection. The results can also suggest whether it is bacterial, viral or fungal infection, but normal results do not exclude pneumonia.
Pneumonia is a radiological diagnosis, so chest x-ray confirmation is always needed.
Depending on the cause, pneumonia can be treated in different ways. Viral pneumonia does not require antibiotic treatment per se, but your doctor may decide to prescribe antibiotics in order to avoid bacterial superinfection. Namely, bacteria can use the weakness of the immune system and cause bacterial infection (i.e. superinfection) on top of the existing viral infection. Antiviral medications are used only in severe cases of viral pneumonia.
Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics. They can be taken orally or parenterally (intramuscular or intravenous injection), depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Supportive therapy is also very important, and it includes rest, drinking lots of fluids, diet, and antipyretics for body temperature control. In some patients, oxygen inhalation is needed because of insufficient respiratory function.
Even though it is generally well treated in healthy persons, pneumonia can lead to severe lung damage and disability. Lung abscess can develop in any patient, but it is more common in persons suffering from chronic lung diseases or alcoholics. In this case, a collection of puss is formed in the lungs, thus prolonging the pneumonia symptoms and making recovery harder. Pleural effusion represents the fluid between the two sheets of pleura which can produce prolonged chest pain related to pneumonia. In cases of recurrent or prolonged symptoms, always contact your doctor for detailed examination.
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