Pneumonia is inflammation and infection of the lungs, causing difficulty breathing, cough and chest pain. Pneumonia can either affect one or both lungs and there are various forms of the disease. The most common causes of pneumonia are: pulmonary infection with viruses (influenza, herpes simplex virus, varicella-zoster, adenovirus, respiratory syncytial virus), gram positive bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes) and gram negative bacteria (Haemophilus influenzae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Neisseria meningitides, Pseudomonas aeruginosa). Pneumonia can also be caused by infection with mycoplasmas (Mycoplasma pneumoniae), small infectious agents that share the characteristics of both viruses and bacteria.
When pneumonia is caused due to infection with viruses, the disease is usually less serious and generates milder symptoms. The symptoms of viral pneumonia resemble those of flu or cold: cough, headache, difficulty breathing, nausea, muscle and chest pain. Most people with viral forms of pneumonia don’t need any medical treatment, as the disease clears on itself within a few weeks. If the symptoms intensify, it is a sign of complication and therefore medical intervention is required.
Unlike viral pneumonia, bacterial forms of the disease are more severe and generate intense symptoms: shortness of breath, pronounced difficulty breathing, dizziness, chills, sweating, high fever. When pneumonia is caused by infection with bacteria, specific medical treatment with antibiotics is required for overcoming the disease. The disease also needs to be discovered in time, in order to prevent the development of complications.
Although the forms of pneumonia caused by infection with mycoplasmas are usually not serious, the presence of these microorganisms inside the organism is more difficult to detect and therefore the disease can be revealed late. Unlike viral and bacterial pneumonia, mycoplasma forms of pneumonia develop slowly and generate symptoms that don’t always point to pneumonia.
Pneumonia is very contagious and the infectious agents responsible for causing the disease are airborne and can be easily acquired through breathing. In spite of all the natural defenses of the respiratory system (nostril hairs, mucus, cilia), some microorganisms are still able to reach inside the lungs, causing inflammation and infection. Once they break through the natural body defenses, irritants, viruses and bacteria quickly spread inside the alveoli, causing serious damage to the lungs.
Pneumonia can be developed by anyone, at any age. However, elderly people and very young children are exposed the most to developing pneumonia. People with weak immune system, chronic pulmonary obstructive diseases, internal dysfunctions (cirrhosis, kidney problems), people who have followed prolonged chemotherapy and people who have suffered surgical interventions are also very susceptible to developing pneumonia.
Statistics reveal that more than 3 million people in the United States are diagnosed with pneumonia each year. Viral forms of pneumonia are common in children and elderly people, while adults usually develop bacterial forms of the disease. Research results also indicate that around 200 000 people are diagnosed with bacterial forms of pneumonia each year, and about 5 percent of hospitalized patients eventually die as a consequence of complication. Pneumonia is a serious disease and needs special attention. When suffering from serious forms of pneumonia, it is very important to follow an appropriate medical treatment in order to fully overcome the disease.