Pneumonia: Meaning, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Dr. Sneha Ganatra
November 18, 2020

Among the list of infectious and deadly diseases, pneumonia is one that stands out as India is a major contributor to the number of pneumonia cases and deaths worldwide. Pneumonia is a highly contagious illness, but the risk of getting it can be lessened with vaccinations, respiratory hygiene, and the right information. It all starts with understanding what is pneumonia. As per the pneumonia definition, it is an infection that affects the lungs by causing them to fill with fluid or pus. As a result, the afflicted find it harder to breathe in the necessary oxygen for the body.

There are 4 types of pneumonia, which are as follows:

  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP)
  • Hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP)
  • Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP)

Of these types, HAP is among the more serious ones as it may be caused by bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Regardless of the type, pneumonia is an illness that shouldn’t be taken lightly and so, it is important to know what to look out for before the condition worsens. To help with that, here’s an overview of the causes, symptoms, complications and treatment for the pneumonia disease.

Causes of pneumonia

Pneumonia causes are based on the type of organism that infects the lungs: bacteria, virus, or fungus. Here’s a breakdown of the different causes of pneumonia.

  1. Fungal pneumonia
    Commonly caused by the fungus in bird droppings or from soil, such an infection primarily affects those with suppressed or weakened immune systems. The types of fungi that cause pneumonia are Histoplasmosis species, Pneumocystis jirovecii, and Cryptococcus species.
  2. Viral pneumonia
    Among the milder forms of this disease, viral pneumonia can be treated at home and one can recover within a few weeks, generally one to three. There are a few common viruses that may cause pneumonia, namely, rhinoviruses, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus.
  3. Bacterial pneumonia
    In this case, the bacteria travels into the lungs and multiplies. Generally, it can occur on its own or as a result of a previous sickness. There are multiple types of bacteria that can cause this, of which the Streptococcus bacteria is the most common.

Symptoms of pneumonia

Pneumonia symptoms are often confused with that of the common cold as they share many commonalities. However, with pneumonia there are few other symptoms you should be aware of. They are as follows:

  • Coughing with mucus
  • Chills and sweating
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever, even up to 105°F
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Bluish lips
  • Fatigue and extreme tiredness

Health complications due to pneumonia

Given that pneumonia affects your lungs and can cause respiratory problems, if left untreated, it can worsen pre-existing conditions or cause other health complications. This is true especially for those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or weakened immune systems as pneumonia can cause congestive heart failure or even a heart attack. For a better understanding of why you shouldn’t leave it untreated, here is a breakdown of some important health complications that pneumonia could lead to.

  • Lung abscesses
    Pneumonia can cause a bacterial infection in the lungs, which leads to the formation of pus within the cavities of the lungs. This makes it hard to breathe and a common solution is to have it drained before it causes lasting damage. In severe cases, surgery is required to clear the lung cavities.
  • Pleural effusion
    The pleura are thin membranes that surround or line the chest cavity and lungs. With pneumonia, there is a possibility of fluid build-up in the pleura and this causes chest pain and shortness of breath.
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
    ARDS is a very serious and severe lung condition that prevents organs from getting the required amount of oxygen for optimal function. Here, fluid fills up in the lung’s air sacs. ARDS can cause organ failure at worst and requires immediate medical care at the earliest sign.
  • Bacteraemia
    This is a condition in which the bacteria from the pneumonia infection travel into the bloodstream and wreak havoc in the body. Some of the common complications here include low blood pressure, organ failure, or even septic shock.

As you’ll notice, many of the complications of pneumonia are dangerous and life-threatening. This is why it is important to do all you can to get pneumonia treatment before it worsens.

Treatment for pneumonia

Treatment for this disease varies based on the type of pneumonia, meaning in some cases, you may require immediate medical care, particularly with HAP, but with other, at-home care is perfectly fine. For the more serious cases, antibiotic and antifungal medication treats bacterial and fungal pneumonia while viral pneumonia may be cured with home care. Here, the best approach is to control the fever and relieve pain while the body heals.

In the severe cases of pneumonia, treatment relies on hospitalisation and specialised care. Doctors will monitor vitals, administer antibiotics intravenously, or even resort to respiratory or oxygen therapy.

Pneumonia fever is something you should keep an eye out for as it is one of the early signs and one that should prompt you to seek medical care. Even though you can treat the fever and pain with over-the-counter medication, you should prioritise proper medical care as the symptoms of pneumonia can worsen quickly. It is also important that you do all you can to avoid the complications that come with the disease. Here, your best bet is to consult a general physician near you or a doctor who specialises in infectious diseases. To do so stress-free, you can use the Bajaj Finserv Health app and simplify the process of availing medical care altogether.

With this app, you find the nearest doctor clinics, book appointments online and avail telemedicine services too. What’s more, you also have to option to consult these specialists online via video, thus ensuring you can get diagnosed and treated without the need for a physical visit. To avail these benefits and much more when seeking care for pneumonia, download the app for free on the Google Play or the Apple App Store today.