Causes of Pneumonia Bacterial Pneumonia Viral Pneumonia Mycoplasma Pneumonia

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Updated: Aug 15, 2023
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Pneumonia is a significant infection or inflammation of the lungs. The air cavities in the lungs fill with pus and other liquid, making it difficult for oxygen to reach your blood. If there is insufficient oxygen in your blood, your body cells cannot work correctly. Because of this, and the spreading infection through the body, pneumonia can cause death.

Pneumonia can have more than 30 different causes.

Until 1936, pneumonia was the number one cause of death in the United States. Since then, the use of antibiotics has brought it under control.

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In 1997, pneumonia and influenza combined were ranked as the sixth leading cause of death. Pneumonia affects your lungs in two ways: Lobar pneumonia affects a section (lobe) of a lung, and bronchial pneumonia (or bronchopneumonia) affects patches throughout both lungs. In terms of the causes of pneumonia, it’s important to note that pneumonia is not a single condition – it can have over 30 different causes. The five major causes of pneumonia are: bacterial infections, Mycoplasmas, other infectious agents (such as fungi including pneumocystis), and various chemicals.

Bacterial pneumonia can attack anyone, from infants through to the elderly. Higher risk groups include alcoholics, the debilitated, post-operative patients, people with respiratory diseases or viral infections, and those with weakened immune systems. Pneumonia bacteria are present in some healthy throats. When body defenses are compromised, for example, by illness, old age, malnutrition, general debility, or impaired immunity, these bacteria can multiply and cause serious damage. When a person’s immunity is lowered, bacteria make their way into the lungs and inflame the air sacs.

The cells in a part of a lung’s lobe, an entire lobe, or even the majority of the lung’s five lobes become completely filled with fluid. This is referred to as “consolidation”. The infection rapidly spreads through the bloodstream and the entire body is attacked. The bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia. There is a vaccine available for this form of pneumonia. Symptoms of bacterial pneumonia can vary from gradual to sudden. In severe cases, the patient might experience shaking chills, chattering teeth, severe chest pain, and a cough that produces rust-colored or green mucus. A person’s temperature may rise as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The patient may sweat profusely, and both breathing and pulse rates can increase rapidly. Lips and nail beds may appear bluish due to a lack of oxygen in the blood.

An individual’s mindset might become confused or delirious through viral pneumonia. Half of all pneumonias are thought to be caused by infections. More infections are being identified as the cause of respiratory illness, and although many primarily affect the upper respiratory system, some result in pneumonia, especially in children. Generally, these pneumonias are not severe and last a short time. Infection with the flu virus, however, can be severe and sometimes fatal. The virus assaults the lungs and multiplies, yet there are almost no physical signs of lung tissue filling with fluid. It threatens those who have pre-existing heart or lung diseases or are pregnant.

Symptoms: The initial signs of viral pneumonia are similar to flu symptoms – fever, a dry cough, headache, muscle pain, and weakness. Within 12 to 36 hours, there is increasing shortness of breath, accompanied by a deteriorating, mucus-producing cough. A high fever may develop, and blueness of the lips can occur. In severe cases, patients experience an urgent need for air and severe breathlessness. Viral pneumonias may be complicated by a bacterial invasion, with all the usual symptoms of bacterial pneumonia.

Mycoplasma pneumonia, due to its somewhat different symptoms and physical signs, and since the course of the illness differs from classic pneumococcal pneumonia, was once thought to be caused by various unidentified viruses and was referred to as “primary atypical pneumonia.” Mycoplasmas, the smallest free-living disease agents in human beings, of uncertain classification as either bacteria or viruses but bearing characteristics of both, were identified during World War II. They typically cause a mild yet widespread pneumonia that affects all age groups, with the highest frequency in older children and young adults.

The death rate is low, even in untreated cases. Symptoms: The most prominent symptom of Mycoplasma pneumonia is a cough that tends to occur in violent attacks, but produces only sparse, whitish mucus. Chills and fever are early indicators, with some people experiencing nausea or vomiting. Profound, lingering weakness may also be experienced.

Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) is caused by an organism believed to be a fungus. PCP is often the first sign of illness in individuals with AIDS. PCP can usually be successfully treated, although it may reoccur a few months later. Treatment, however, can help prevent or delay its return. Other, less common pneumonias can be quite severe and are becoming more frequent.

Different unique pneumonias are caused by the inhalation of food, liquid, gases, or dirt, as well as by fungi. Foreign bodies or a bronchial obstruction, such as a lump, might promote the development of pneumonia, although they are not root causes of pneumonia. Rickettsia, often considered a microorganism somewhere between viruses and bacteria, causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Q fever, typhus, and psittacosis, diseases that may have mild or severe effects on the lungs. Tuberculosis pneumonia is a very serious lung infection and extremely dangerous unless treated early. If you develop pneumonia, your chances of a rapid recovery are highest under specific conditions: if you’re young, if your pneumonia is detected early, if your defenses against disease are functioning well, if the infection hasn’t spread, and if you’re not suffering from other health problems. For young and healthy individuals, early treatment with antibiotics can cure bacterial pneumonia, expedite recovery from mycoplasma pneumonia, and a certain percentage of rickettsia cases. Still, there is not yet a comprehensive treatment for viral pneumonia, although antiviral drugs are used for certain types.

Most patients can be treated at home. The medications utilized to treat pneumonia are determined by the bacterium causing the pneumonia and the doctor’s judgment. After a patient’s temperature returns to normal, medication must be continued according to the doctor’s instructions; otherwise, the pneumonia may recur. Relapses can be far more severe than the initial attack. In addition to antibiotics, patients are given supportive treatment: proper diet and oxygen to increase oxygen in the blood when necessary. For some people, medication to alleviate chest pain and provide relief from the violent cough might be necessary. A vigorous young individual may resume a normal life within a week of recovering from pneumonia. However, for middle-aged patients, weeks may pass before they regain their accustomed strength, vitality, and sense of well-being. A person recovering from mycoplasma pneumonia may be weak for an extended period of time.

As a rule, a person should not be deterred from resuming work or performing usual activities but should be prepared for some difficulties. Adequate rest is paramount to maintain progress towards full recovery and to avoid relapse. Remember, don’t rush recovery! Preventing pneumonia is possible because pneumonia is a common complication of influenza. Hence, getting a flu shot every fall is an excellent preventative measure against pneumonia. A vaccine is also available to help prevent pneumococcal pneumonia, one type of bacterial pneumonia. Your doctor can assist you in determining if you, or a member of your family, require the vaccine against pneumococcal pneumonia. It’s typically administered to people at high risk of contracting the disease and its life-threatening complications.

The greatest risk of pneumococcal pneumonia is usually among people who: have persistent diseases such as lung disease, cardiovascular disease, kidney conditions, sickle cell anemia, or diabetes; are recuperating from severe diseases; are in assisted living homes or other chronic care centers; or are age 65 or older. If you are at risk, ask your doctor for the vaccine. The vaccine is usually given just once. Ask your doctor about any revaccination recommendations. The vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women or children under the age of two. Because pneumonia often follows average respiratory infections, the most important preventive measure is to be alert for any signs of respiratory distress that linger more than a few days. Proper health habits, a balanced diet, and regular exercise can all increase resistance to respiratory ailments and promote quick recovery when illness does occur.

If you have symptoms of pneumonia, call your doctor immediately. Even with the many effective antibiotics available, early diagnosis and treatment are essential. Follow your doctor’s advice. In serious cases, your doctor may recommend a hospital stay, or healing at home may be possible. Continue to take the medication your doctor prescribes until you are told you may stop. This will help prevent a recurrence of pneumonia and relapse. Remember, although pneumonia can be treated, it is an incredibly serious illness. Don’t wait, get treatment early.

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Causes of Pneumonia Bacterial Pneumonia Viral Pneumonia Mycoplasma Pneumonia. (2022, Dec 15). Retrieved from