Pneumonia, usually a complication of a respiratory infection – especially the flu – is caused by a bacterial infection and defined by the swelling of the tissues in the lungs that it affects. The disease can become severe within hours, and symptoms can last for months.
Symptoms of pneumonia can range from mild to deadly, depending on the type of pneumonia and the person’s age.
Types of pneumonia
- Bacterial pneumonia: This type of pneumonia can affect anyone at any age and develops either on its own or after a severe cold or flu. Bacterial pneumonia is most often caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. It can also be caused by Chlamydophila pneumonia or Legionella pneumophila. Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia can sometimes develop in people with weakened immune systems due to diseases such as AIDS or cancer.
- Viral pneumonia: Respiratory viruses can cause pneumonia, especially in young children and the elderly. Although pneumonia is usually not very severe and lasts for a short time, it can lead to severe or fatal viral pneumonia. Pregnant women or people with heart or lung problems are at greater risk.
- Mycoplasmic pneumonia: The organisms that cause this type of pneumonia aren’t viruses or bacteria, but they both have traits. These cause mild cases of pneumonia, mostly in older children and young adults.
- Other types of pneumonia: These include tuberculosis and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) which affect people with weakened immune systems.
Symptoms of pneumonia
- Chest pain
- Dry cough
- Muscle pain
- Rapid breathing
- Difficulty breathing
Some of the symptoms may indicate a medical emergency. These include:
- Bluish tone of the skin
- Blood in the sputum
- Difficult breathing
- High fever
- Rapid heartbeat
If a person notices the symptoms mentioned above, it is advisable to consult a doctor. Certain physical exams and diagnostic tests need to be done.
The crackling and bubbling noises in the chest during inhalation are usually indicators of pneumonia. Some people may also have wheezing.
Chest x-rays should be taken to determine if the infection is present in your lungs.