All About Pneumonia
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All About Pneumonia

Pneumonia is the medical term used to describe more than 50 different types of lung inflammation and infection.

Types of Pneumonias

Pneumonia is the medical term used to describe more than 50 different types of lung inflammation and infection. The infection can be caused by either bacteria, fungi, viral, or even chemical damage. Pneumonia is a common complication of illness and is the sixth most common cause of death in the United States. It is more common in males, in infants and the elderly, and in those who have a weakened immune system. The condition is characterized by an outflow of fluid and cells from the inflamed lung tissue that fills the airspaces, causing difficulty breathing. Symptoms include a cough, which may bring up bloody sputum, pain in the chest, a high fever accompanied by chills. Treatment is administer by a physician. There is little you can do on your own and serious pneumonia can be life-threatening. The treatment prescribed will depend on the cause of the pneumonia and the seriousness of the condition. If the infection is bacterial, antibiotic drugs such as penicillin or erythromycin are often prescribed. Hospitalization may be required in serious cases along with administering oxygen. If the cause of the pneumonia is a fungus, antifungal drugs will be prescribed. Aspirin or acetaminophen may be given to reduce the fever. Aspirin should never be given to children under 16 unless directed by a physician.

It is important to consult your physician or pharmacist before using any over-the-counter drugs or treatments. They will be able to advise you on proper usage and can warn you of possible side effects and contraindications.

Aspiration Pneumonia

Pneumonia may also be due to chemical damage to the lungs and is the result of foreign matters being inhaled. Chemical damage occurs with the inhalation of gasses such as sulfur dioxide in industrial accidents, or from inhalation of vomit by an unconscious or semiconscious person. Because of the possibility of pneumonia developing into a life-threatening condition, it is important to consult your healthcare provider for the appropriate course of treatment. This type of pneumonia is often called aspiration pneumonia. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, that may or may not be accompanied by pain, cough, and often a fever. The treatment of chemical pneumonias depend on the removal of the inflammatory fluid from the lungs by suction, antiinflammatory drugs, and oxygen therapy. Antibiotics are often given to prevent secondary infections. Aspirin or acetaminophen may be given to reduce the fever. Aspirin should never be given to children under 16 unless directed by a physician.

It is important to consult your physician or pharmacist before using any over-the-counter drugs or treatments. They will be able to advise you on proper usage and can warn you of possible side effects and contraindications.

Chlamydial Pneumonia

Chlamydial pneumonia, or psittacosis, is caused by the bacteria-like organism Chlamydia psittaci. Other common names for this disease are ornothosis or parrot fever. The microorganism is transmitted to humans from infected birds, especially parrots. The incubation period of this organism is not known, but it occurs in infants from 4 to 12 weeks. Symptoms include a dry cough, headache, high fever and anorexia. The chlamydia organisms are hard to isolate and culture, making diagnosis difficult. The disease is treated with the drugs tetracycline or erythromycin, which must be continued at least two weeks after the fever subsides. Discharge from the nasal passages can continue for up to two months.

Mycoplasmal Pneumonia

Mycoplasmal pneumonia is known by several different names. It is also called walking pneumonia, Eaton-agent pneumonia, and primary atypical pneumonia. It is caused by the bacteria-like microorganism Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Mycoplasma are a genus of microscopic organisms that are considered the smallest free-living organisms. Many are pathogens. The microorganism is spread by airborne droplets (coughing or sneezing) and by direct contact with articles that have been soiled by nasal discharge or sputum. Mycoplasma pneumoniae has a nine to twelve day incubation period. The onset is gradual. Symptoms include a cough, but not much sputum, and a high fever accompanied by chills. The condition is treated with tetracycline or erythromycin. Persistent cases can last as long as three months. If the condition is severe, machine ventilation of the lungs may be necessary to assist breathing. Aspirin or acetaminophen may be given to reduce the fever. Aspirin should never be given to children under 16 unless directed by a physician.

It is important to consult your physician or pharmacist before using any over-the-counter drugs or treatments. They will be able to advise you on proper usage and can warn you of possible side effects and contraindications.

Pneumococcal Pneumonia

Pneumococcal pneumonia is the most common type of pneumonia and is the cause of 40,000 deaths each year in the United States. Pneumococcal pneumonia is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae. The bacteria is spread by airborne droplets (coughing and sneezing). The disease is usually confined to one of the five lobes of the lungs, which is why the disease is commonly called lobar pneumonia. The infected lobe is usually very inflamed and changes from a normal "spongy" air-filled consistency to a heavy "consolidated" state. Early treatment is essential to prevent permanent damage to the lungs. The bacteria has an incubation period of about three days before symptoms appear. Symptoms include a high fever, often accompanied by chills and delirium, cough with blood-stained sputum, and painful breathing. The disease is treated with antibiotics, such as penicillin. Treatment with penicillin will render the patient noninfectious within 48 hours. If the condition becomes severe, machine ventilation may be necessary to assist the lungs in breathing.

A vaccine has been developed for pneumococcal pneumonia. It combines 23 different oneumococcal types to protect against almost 90% of pneumococcal infections. The vaccine has been marketed in the US since 1983 and is advised for persons over the age of 65, patients who have had their spleen removed, and those with heart or lung ailments be vaccinated against the disease. However, due to the possibility of serious reactions to the immunization, it is not advisable to immunize small children.

Pneumocystis Pneumonia

Pneumocystis pneumonia is an interstidial plasma cell pneumonia in which the alveoli become honeycombed with an acidophilic material. The condition is caused by the parasite pneumocystis carinii and has an incubation period of one to two months. It is an acute pulmonary disease that occurs early in life, often in infants. Infants that are malnourished, chronically ill, or premature are especially susceptible. It is not known how the disease is transmitted or even the period of communicability. The disease is characterized by progressive difficulty breathing (dyspnea), an abnormally rapid rate of breathing (tachypnea), and cyanosis. A fever is not always present. Diagnosis of pneumocystis pneumonia is difficult to make and usually requires a broncoscopy and special staining techniques. A broncoscopy is an examination of the bronchi, the main airways of the lungs, by means of a hollow tube with a light and lens attached. In addition to inspecting for abnormalities, it can also be used to obtain samples of mucus or cells from the airways of the lungs. Pneumocystis pneumonia has a high mortality rate, near 100% in those who do not seek medical treatment. Hospitalization is often required. The disease is treated with the drugs pentamidine isethionate or a combination of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole.

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