Pneumonia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What is pneumonia?


Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. It is a highly contagious disease which can be serious and life-threatening. Viral and bacterial pneumonia can spread to others through inhalation of airborne droplets from a sneeze or cough. They can also spread onto shared objects through touch. Fungal pneumonia though does not spread from person to person.

When pneumonia occurs the lungs get inflamed, and the tiny air sacs, or alveoli, inside the lungs fill up with fluid making it difficult to breathe.

Anybody can contract pneumonia, however, this illness can be fatal for older adults, infants, people with weak or impaired immune systems, or people suffering from other infections and diseases such as asthma, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, cancer, or diabetes. Hence, though pneumonia can be treated at home, older adults, babies, and people with other diseases need to be hospitalised.


How does pneumonia occur?


Pneumonia starts when you inhale the germs into your lungs.

Pneumonia causes inflammation in the air sacs in your lungs, which are called alveoli. The alveoli fill up with fluid or pus, making it difficult to breathe.

Pneumonia can be classified according to how the germs were inhaled:

  • Aspiration Pneumonia: This type of pneumonia occurs when you take in the bacteria through food, drink, or saliva into your lungs

  • Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP): occurs when patients using ventilators contract pneumonia

Pneumonia can also be classified according to where it was contracted:

  • Hospital Acquired Pneumonia (HAP): is contracted when one visits a hospital. This can be very serious compared to other types of pneumonia as the bacteria can be highly resistant to antibiotics

  • Community-Acquired Pneumonia (CAP): refers to pneumonia which is contracted outside any hospital or institutional setting

One is more prone to the disease if he/she suffers from a cold or the flu since one’s immune system is already weak. Having a long-term, or chronic, disease such as asthma, heart disease, cancer, or diabetes, also makes you more likely to get pneumonia.

Who is prone to pneumonia?


Some people are more prone to pneumonia than others:

  • infants upto 2 years of age, and older adults who are above 60 years

  • people who have had a stroke and have problems swallowing, or are bedridden

  • people who take medicines for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

  • people who are recovering from a cold or influenza infection

  • people suffering from malnutrition

  • people with weak immune systems

  • people who are drug addicts, or heavy smokers, or alcohol drinkers

  • people with certain chronic medical conditions such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, or heart disease

  • people who are repeatedly hospitalized

  • have been exposed to certain chemicals or pollutants

What are the causes of pneumonia?


Pneumonia can be classified according to the according to the organism that causes the infection:

Bacterial pneumonia: The most common cause of bacterial pneumonia is Streptococcus pneumoniae. Chlamydophila pneumonia and Legionella pneumophila can also cause bacterial pneumonia.

Viral pneumonia: Respiratory viruses are often the cause of pneumonia.  Young children and older people are especially at a risk of viral pneumonia. Viral pneumonia lasts for a shorter time than bacterial pneumonia.

Mycoplasma pneumonia: Mycoplasma organisms are neither viruses nor bacteria, but they have traits common to both. Mycoplasmas generally cause mild cases of pneumonia, most often in older children and young adults.

Fungal pneumonia: This form of pneumonia is caused by fungi from soil or bird droppings. It occurs when people inhale large amounts of the organisms. They can also cause pneumonia in people with chronic diseases or weakened immune systems.

What are the symptoms of pneumonia? How is pneumonia diagnosed?


Some common symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • coughing that will produce mucus

  • fever

  • sweating

  • chest pain which worsens while coughing

  • fast breathing and feeling short of breath

  • shaking and 'teeth-chattering' chills

  • accelerated heartbeats

  • fatigue

  • weakness

  • nausea and vomiting

  • diarrhea

Diagnosis


During the process of diagnosis, your doctor will first gather your medical history. He will perform a physical exam, including listening to your lungs with a stethoscope. He may ask you to undergo additional tests such as:

  • Blood tests: to confirm if any infection is present and if so identify the organism causing the infection.

  • Chest X-ray: which helps to find out the location and extent of the infection.

  • Pulse oximetry: this test measures the oxygen level in your blood as pneumonia can decrease the supply of oxygen to the body.

  • CT scan: which will provide a detailed image of your lungs.

  • Pleural fluid test: a needle is placed between your ribs and a fluid sample is taken from the pleural area to be analyzed and determine the type of infection.

  • Sputum test: a fluid sample is taken from your lungs after you cough deeply to determine the cause and type of infection.

What are the complications of pneumonia?


The complications of pneumonia include:

  • Bacteremia: which is a serious complication where the bacteria spreads from the initial location into the blood. This condition can lead to septic shock which can be fatal.

  • Lung abscesses: which is a condition where necrosis of the lung tissue occurs. Cavities form in the lungs containing necrotic debris or fluid caused by microbial infection. This condition is treated with antibiotics or surgery.

  • Pleural effusions, empyema, and pleurisy: these conditions involve inflammation of the tissue layers (pleura) lining the lungs and inner chest wall. If this happens, you may need to have the fluid drained through a chest tube or removed with surgery.

  • Renal failure: a condition in which kidneys lose the ability to remove waste and balance fluids.

  • Respiratory failure: caused due to blockage in the lungs.

What is the treatment for pneumonia?


Your doctor may treat you with antibiotics, cough medicines, and fever reducers.

If your age is above 60 years, you may need to be hospitalized, based on the severity of your condition.

If it is a child (below 2 years) who is suffering from pneumonia, he/she will need to be hospitalized.

Would you like to consult a doctor for Pneumonia ?

Patient Experiences

Nikhil Poladiya
Treatment for Severe Pneumonia
Dr.Amit .P.Shah is an excellent physician. I consulted him a number of times regarding my dad's health problems which started with convulsions then pneumonia and later sepsis. Dr.Amit Shah is responsible for saving my father from a very critical condition wherein he was down with severe pneumonia and sepsis. Dr.Shah was very patient and understanding and explained the condition and also the treatment options very well. He is very open to suggestions as well and willing to try different treatments / approaches to improve the patient's condition. As on date there is very good improvement in my father's condition and I still consult Dr.Amit Shah for follow up check up's . He is also well versed in the role of an intensivist (managing and treatment of critically ill patients in the ICU) as well. I would strongly recommend Dr.Amit .P.Shah for treating patients at various levels from basic ilnesses to moderate to severe and critical illnesses as well....Read Less
Doctor in this story :Dr. Amit Shah
Madhu Hospital
Nikhil Poladiya
Treatment for Severe Pneumonia and Sepsis
Dr.Amit .P.Shah is an excellent physician. I consulted him a number of times regarding my dad's health problems which started with convulsions then pneumonia and later sepsis. Dr.Amit Shah is responsible for saving my father from a very critical condition wherein he was down with severe pneumonia and sepsis. Dr.Shah was very patient and understanding and explained the condition and also the treatment options very well. He is very open to suggestions as well and willing to try different treatments / approaches to improve the patient's condition. As on date there is very good improvement in my father's condition and I still consult Dr.Amit Shah for follow up check up's . He is also well versed in the role of an intensivist (managing and treatment of critically ill patients in the ICU) as well. I would strongly recommend Dr.Amit .P.Shah for treating patients at various levels from basic ilnesses to moderate to severe and critical illnesses as well....Read Less
Doctor in this story :Dr. Amit Shah
Madhu Hospital
Tamkeen
Satisfied With Treatment for Pneumonia
I had gullen barri syndrome in january 2007 and I took the treatment at Delhi. I took the discharge and condition improved slowly. Later on on I developed pneumonia and consulted with Dr Javaid. He started antibiotics iv for seven days *** * *** ***** ** *** ****** As he advised me to get admission in hospital so many times.He made the point to let me know he'd always be available when needed, showing compassion for his patients, and passion for his craft. He always has time to talk about my issues in depth and is open to looking at new ways of dealing with them. He highly enough gave me the support ....Read Less
Doctor in this story :Dr. Javaid Tahir
Dr Javaid Tahir Clinic
anjali meshram
Relief from TB
Most Friendly Doctor I ever meet, He thoroughly analyzes the cause of illness and treats a patient according to that. I went for treatment of TB before approx 9 months to dr parihar , he explain my health conditions perfectly and plan treatment . After treatment now I am releaved from TB and feeling much better than ever before. He always treat you with kind words and never in seek of any extra monetray benefits from patients like others doctors. I strongly recommend every patient having problem of Chest, Tb , pneumonia etc to visit Dr. Parihar ...Read Less
Doctor in this story :Dr. Aditya Parihar
Parihar Chest Clinic

Questions answered by trusted doctors

Verified User
2009 she had heart bypass surgery now she got Pneumonia diseases
My questions is how many days will take to cure Pneumonia diseases?
Dr. Neel Kamal Srivastava
General Physician, Delhi
With good antibiotic she will get cure for sure but she need admission in hospital and recovery period is long at least 2-3 moths
Verified User
My son is 7 and has asthma. He has had pneumonia 4 times in 9 months what could be causing the pneumonia so much?
Dr. Rewati Govindrajan
Pediatrician, Pune
Was all the episodes of pneumonia completely cured and follow up x ray showed complete resolution? Was the pneumonia affecting same segment of lungs every time or different segments were affected?  It requires detailed evaluation for immunodeficiency disorders or local pathology consult ur pediatrician
Ask health queries and get free answers from doctors in 24 hrs

Did you know?

Highest pneumonia deaths

India has the highest number of pneumonia deaths in the world.

Nearly 3 lakh children died

Nearly three lakh children died of pneumonia in India in 2016.

Pneumonia is the leading cause of disease in children

Pneumonia remains the leading infectious cause of death among children under five.

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Home Remedies

Basil Leaves and Black Pepper

Crush some basil leaves to extract the juice and keep aside. Grind some peppercorns. Mix the ground pepper to the basil juice and consume it in intervals of 6 to 7 hours.

Take Turmeric

Mix a teaspoon of turmeric with a glass of warm milk or water, and add a pinch of salt. Drink this every day before going to bed at night. Alternatively warm some water and mix ¼ teaspoon of black pepper powder and 1½ teaspoon of turmeric. Have this concoction once a day till you recover.

Ginger Tea

Grind a piece of ginger and extract its juice. Add one teaspoon of honey and a few drops of lemon juice into it. Have this mix every day before going to bed.

Steam Inhaling

Fill a vessel with some hot water and put in a few drops of any essential oil that you may have around the house such as tea tree, lavender, camphor or eucalyptus. Position your face over the vessel and cover your head along with the vessel with a towel, and inhale the steam.

Cayenne Pepper Intake

Take a glass of water, add one teaspoon of lemon juice and sprinkle a little cayenne pepper on it. Drink the mix, at least 4 times every day. Cayenne pepper helps the body release mucus from the respiratory tract, which makes it easier for the patient to breathe

Gargle with Salt Water

Gargle with warm salt water three to four times per day. This will clear your respiratory tract.
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