Pneumonia is a major lung infection that can result from either bacteria or a virus. This condition can be treated effectively and resolved fairly quickly if medical help is pursued right away, but if pneumonia isn't treated it can become serious enough to cause hospitalization. In the most severe cases of pneumonia, death is possible.
Although pneumonia symptoms can be different from one patient to the next, most patients have problems, including:
It's quite common to have several or even all of these symptoms at one time, particularly in severe cases of pneumonia.
Patients with a history of respiratory problems are more likely to develop pneumonia. Any type of respiratory infection puts a patient at an elevated risk for pneumonia. Patients who have other conditions such as diabetes or heart disease are more likely to develop pneumonia.
A physical exam and a discussion regarding symptoms are both valuable tools in diagnosing pneumonia today. To confirm the diagnosis, a chest X-ray and a blood count may also be performed.
There are two general categories of pneumonia, bacterial and viral.
With bacterial pneumonia, antibiotics are used to interfere with bacterial reproduction to help your body fight off the infection.
In the case of viral pneumonia, antiviral medications do to viruses what antibiotics do to bacteria. They stop the reproduction and spread of the virus to help your body fight the infection.
Patients need to get plenty of rest to allow the body to heal as quickly as possible.
While pneumonia can't always be prevented, there are a couple of proactive steps patients can take. All patients should have a flu vaccination every year, as the flu is often the starting point for pneumonia. For very young patients — under the age of five — or older patients — over the age of 65 — the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccination is often recommended. The healthier a patient is overall, the more likely they'll be able to avoid pneumonia.
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