Get exclusive member benefits & effect social change. Join Today
Pneumonia is an infection in one or both lung. It can be caused by fungi, bacteria, or viruses. Pneumonia causes inflammation in your lung’s air sacs, or alveoli. The alveoli fill with fluid or pus, making it difficult to breathe.
Symptoms of pneumonia can range from mild to life-threatening. The severity of your pneumonia usually depends on:
Keep reading to learn about what causes pneumonia as well as its symptoms. You should call your doctor if you have any concerns. Severe pneumonia is a medical emergency.
There are five major types of pneumonia. They are:
Bacterial pneumonia can affect anyone at any age. It can develop on its own or after a serious cold or flu. The most common cause of bacterial pneumonia is Streptococcus pneumoniae. Bacterial pneumonia can also be caused by Chlamydophila pneumonia or Legionella pneumophila. Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia is sometimes seen in those who have weak immune systems due to illnesses like AIDS or cancer.
In most cases, respiratory viruses can cause pneumonia, especially in young children and the elderly. Pneumonia is usually not serious and lasts a short time. However, the flu virus can cause viral pneumonia to be severe or fatal. It’s especially harmful to pregnant women or individuals with heart or lung issues. Invading bacteria can cause complications with viral pneumonia.
Mycoplasma organisms are not viruses or bacteria, but they have traits common to both. They are the smallest agents of disease that affect humans. Mycoplasmas generally cause mild cases of pneumonia, most often in older children and young adults.
Many additional types of pneumonia affect immune-compromised individuals. Tuberculosis and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) generally affect people with suppressed immune systems, such as those who have AIDS. In fact, PCP can be one of the first signs of illness in people with AIDS.
Less common types of pneumonia can also be serious. Pneumonia can be caused by inhaling food, dust, liquid, or gas, as well as by various fungi.
No one is immune to pneumonia, but there are certain factors that can raise your risks:
The general symptoms of bacterial pneumonia can develop quickly and may include:
Some symptoms may indicate a medical emergency. You should seek immediate medical attention if you have any of these symptoms:
Pneumonia can be easily overlooked as the cause of an illness because it often resembles a cold or the flu. However, it usually lasts longer and symptoms seem more severe than these other conditions.
To determine whether or not you have pneumonia, your doctors will usually inquire about your signs and symptoms. Questions they may ask include:
Crackling and bubbling sounds in the chest during inhalation are usually indicators of pneumonia. Wheezing may also be present. Your doctor may also have trouble hearing normal breathing sounds in different areas of your chest.
Chest X-rays can be used to determine if infection is present in your lungs. However, chest X-rays won’t show your type of pneumonia. Blood tests can provide a better picture of the type of pneumonia. Also, blood tests are necessary to see if the infection is in your bloodstream.
The following are additional tests that may be required:
The type of treatment prescribed for pneumonia mostly depends on what type of pneumonia is present, as well as how severe it is. In many cases, pneumonia can be treated at home.
The typical treatment plan for pneumonia includes taking all prescribed medications and participating in follow-up care. A chest X-ray may be ordered to make sure your pneumonia has been successfully treated.
Antibiotics are used to treat this type of pneumonia. Antibiotics should be taken as directed. If you stop taking the antibiotics before treatment is complete, the pneumonia may return. Most people will improve after one to three days of treatment.
Antibiotics are useless if a virus is the cause of pneumonia. However, certain antiviral drugs can help treat the condition. Symptoms usually clear within one to three weeks.
Anyone with diabetes, asthma, and other severe or chronic health problems is at risk for pneumonia. However, in many cases, it can be prevented with vaccines against bacterial pneumonia and flu. Quitting smoking will definitely lower your risk of pneumonia.
Written by: Bree Normandin
Published on: Oct 20, 2015
Medically reviewed on: May 31, 2017: Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.
From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.
Members save 10% on the monthly service charge of qualified AT&T wireless plans.
Members pay $9.50 for Regal ePremiere Tickets purchased online.
Members earn points on select Walgreens-brand health and wellness products.
Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.