A History of Pneumonia and its Symptoms and Proper Treatment

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Updated: Aug 15, 2023
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Until 1936, pneumonia was the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. Since then, the use of antibiotics has brought it under control. In 1997, pneumonia, as well as the flu, ranked as the sixth leading cause of death. Pneumonia affects your lungs in two ways. Lobar pneumonia impacts a section (lobe) of a lung. Bronchial pneumonia (or bronchopneumonia) affects patches throughout both lungs. Pneumonia is not a singular disease. It can have over 30 different causes. There are five main causes of pneumonia: bacterial infections, mycoplasmas, other infectious agents such as fungi including pneumocystis, various chemicals, and viruses.

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Bacterial pneumonia can attack anyone, from infants to the very old. Alcoholics, the incapacitated, post-operative patients, people with respiratory diseases or viral infections, and individuals with weakened immune systems are at greater risk. Pneumonia bacteria are present in some healthy throats. When body defenses are weakened in some way—by illness, aging, poor nutrition, general debility, or impaired immunity—the bacteria can multiply and cause serious damage. Typically, when an individual’s immunity is lowered, bacteria make their way into the lungs and inflame the air sacs.

The cells of part of a lobe of the lung, an entire lobe, or even most of the lung’s five lobes can become filled with fluid (a condition called “consolidation”). The infection quickly spreads through the bloodstream, and the entire body may be affected. The Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia. It is one type of pneumonia for which a vaccine is available. Symptoms of bacterial pneumonia can vary from gradual to sudden. In the most severe cases, the infected person may experience shaking chills, chattering teeth, severe chest pain, and a cough that produces rust-colored or greenish mucus. The individual’s temperature may rise as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The patient might sweat profusely, and both breathing and pulse rates can increase rapidly. Lips and nail beds may take on a bluish color due to a lack of oxygen in the blood. The patient’s mental state might also become confused or delirious.

It is thought that half of all pneumonias are caused by viruses. An increasing number of viruses are being identified as the cause of respiratory infection, and although most attack the upper respiratory system, some cause pneumonia, particularly in children. Most of these pneumonias are not serious and last for a short time. However, infection with the influenza virus can be severe and sometimes fatal. The virus invades the lungs and multiplies, but there are few physical signs of the lung tissues becoming filled with fluid. The majority of its victims are those who have pre-existing heart or lung disease or are pregnant. The initial symptoms of viral pneumonia are the same as those for the flu: fever, a dry cough, headache, muscle pain, and weakness.

Within 12 to 36 hours, there is increasing breathlessness; the coughing worsens and produces a certain amount of mucus. There can also be a high fever and in some cases blueness of the lips. In extreme cases, the individual may experience a desperate need for air and severe breathlessness. Viral pneumonias may be complicated by an invasion of bacteria, with all the usual symptoms of bacterial pneumonia. Because of its unique symptoms and physical signs, and the way the illness deviates from classic pneumococcal pneumonia, mycoplasma pneumonia was once thought to be caused by one or more undiscovered viruses and was known as “primary atypical pneumonia”. First identified during World War II, mycoplasmas are the smallest free-living agents of disease in humanity, with characteristics of both bacteria and viruses. They usually cause a mild and widespread pneumonia and can affect all age groups, although they occur most frequently in older children and young adults. The fatality rate is low, even in untreated cases. Symptoms include a persistent cough, often in violent attacks, but only producing thin, whitish mucus. Often accompanied by chills and fever as early signs, some people may experience nausea or vomiting. Patients may also experience profound weakness which can last for a significant duration.

Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) is caused by an organism believed to be a fungus. Often, PCP is the first indication of illness in many people with AIDS. Fortunately, in most cases, PCP can be effectively treated. It may recur some months later, but treatment can help to prevent or at least delay its recurrence. Other, less common pneumonias can be quite severe and appear to be occurring with increased frequency. Many of these atypical pneumonias are caused by the inhalation of food, fluids, gases, or dust, as well as fungi. Foreign bodies or bronchial obstructions, such as tumors, can also lead to pneumonia, although they themselves are not intrinsic causes. Rickettsia (an organism somewhere between viruses and bacteria) can cause such diseases as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Q fever, typhus, and psittacosis, all of which may have mild or severe effects on the lungs. Lastly, tuberculous pneumonia is a very serious lung infection and is extremely dangerous unless treated early.

If you develop pneumonia, your chances of a quick recovery are best under certain conditions: if you are young, if the pneumonia is caught early, if your immune system is functioning well, if the infection has not spread, and if you are not suffering from other diseases. In young, healthy individuals, early treatment with antibiotics can cure bacterial pneumonia, speed recovery from mycoplasma pneumonia, and even a certain percentage of rickettsia cases. However, there is not yet a universal treatment for viral pneumonia, although antiviral drugs are used for specific types. Fortunately, many people can be treated at home.

The drugs used to combat pneumonia are determined by the bacterium causing the pneumonia, as well as the judgment of the doctor. After a patient’s temperature returns to normal, medication needs to continue according to the physician’s instructions. Otherwise, the pneumonia may persist. Relapses can even be more severe than the initial attack. In addition to antibiotics, patients are provided with supportive therapy: a suitable diet plan and supplemental oxygen when needed to increase oxygen levels in the blood. For some patients, medication to alleviate chest pain and to offer relief from severe coughing may be necessary. A vigorous young individual may lead a normal life within a week of recovering from pneumonia. However, for middle-aged individuals, it may take several weeks before they regain their usual strength, vitality, and sense of well-being. A person recovering from mycoplasma pneumonia may feel weak for an extended period. Generally, an individual should not be discouraged from returning to work or performing everyday tasks but should be warned to anticipate some difficulties. Enough rest is vital to continue progress toward full recovery and to prevent a relapse. Remember, don’t rush recovery!

Since pneumonia is a common complication of influenza, getting a flu shot every fall is excellent prevention. Vaccines are also available to help prevent pneumococcal pneumonia, a type of bacterial pneumonia. Your doctor can assist you in deciding if you, or a family member, require vaccination against pneumococcal pneumonia. It’s usually only administered to individuals at high risk of contracting the disease and its deadly complications.

The greatest risk of pneumococcal pneumonia often lies among individuals who have chronic illnesses such as lung disease, heart disease, kidney disorders, sickle cell anemia, or diabetes. Others at risk are those recovering from serious illness, people living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities, and those aged 65 or older. If you are at risk, consult your doctor about receiving the vaccine. The vaccine is typically given only once. However, do ask your doctor about any revaccination recommendations. The vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women or children under the age of two. Since pneumonia often follows typical respiratory infections, the most crucial preventative measure is being attentive to any symptoms of breathing difficulty that persist for more than a few days. Good health practices, a balanced diet, hygiene, ample rest, and regular exercise all increase resistance to all respiratory illnesses and also help to boost quick recovery when illness does occur.

Contact your doctor immediately if you suspect pneumonia. Despite the existence of many effective antibiotics, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial. Adhere to your doctor’s advice. In severe cases, your doctor might recommend hospitalization. Alternatively, recovery at home may be possible. Continue to take the medication your doctor prescribes until you’re advised you may stop. This will help to prevent a recurrence of pneumonia and a relapse. Remember, although pneumonia can be treated, it is an incredibly serious illness. Don’t delay, seek treatment early.

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A History of Pneumonia and its Symptoms and Proper Treatment. (2022, Dec 15). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/a-history-of-pneumonia-and-its-symptoms-and-proper-treatment/