Pneumonia

Pneumonia Symptoms and Facts

Pneumonia is a respiratory infection which inflames the air sacs in the lungs. The air sacs sometimes fill with pus or other fluids, which trigger symptoms of pneumonia. About one million people are hospitalized by pneumonia every year in the United States, and fifty thousand people die annually from the infection.

Pneumonia Facts

Pneumonia is the leading cause of hospitalizations in the country, aside from women giving birth. While it is more common to occur in children and senior citizens, the infection still poses a threat to everyone within this age range. The mortality rate for people suffering from pneumonia has had little improvement over the past five decades. Furthermore, there is also a growing resistance to antibiotics in some of the bacteria that causes pneumonia. After developing pneumonia, it usually takes between six to eight weeks for a patient to make a full recovery.

Causes of Pneumonia

Something unique about pneumonia, compared to other diseases, is that many different organisms can be responsible for the infection. Therefore, it is more challenging to treat and provide vaccinations for those infected.
  • Bacteria. Some bacterial forms of pneumonia are not contagious, but certain strains of these infections can be. Many different types of bacteria can cause pneumonia. While anyone can develop bacterial pneumonia, the disease is more common in children and the elderly.
  • Other organisms. Mycoplasma pneumonia is a bacteria-like organism that can cause pneumonia. It is at its most contagious ten days after someone contracts it. The symptoms are so mild that doctors often refer to it as ‘walking pneumonia’ because patients that have it tend to function normally. Transmission typically requires prolonged exposure to the organism, and the infection can remain in the throat for over three months.
  • Fungi. When fungus found in certain soils transfers into the lungs through breathing, it causes fungal pneumonia. Fungal pneumonia is an environmental pneumonia, so it is generally not contagious. The infection occurs mostly in those with weakened immune systems, and the mortality rate in individuals with compromised immune systems can be as high as 90%.
  • Virus. Children under five years of age are the most likely to develop viral pneumonia. The most common cause of viral pneumonia is from the flu virus. The infection is contagious and remains contagious days after the symptoms have gone away. Fortunately, viral pneumonia is usually mild. However, the virus can become severe in certain rare cases.
  • Hospital-acquired. People who visit the hospital for other reasons may be susceptible to inhalation of pneumonia bacteria from other visitors that already have the infection. Hospital-acquired pneumonia can be even more dangerous because the bacteria can be more resistant to antibiotics.

Four Stages of Pneumonia

Pneumonia occurs in four stages. These stages typically occur within three days of each other.
  • Consolidation. The first stage of pneumonia is called consolidation. It develops within the early 24 hours of attaining pneumonia. During this stage, pus, blood, fluid, or other substances begin to fill the air sacs of the lungs. The infection spreads rapidly during consolidation. Coughing and heavy breathing occur during this stage as well.
  • Red hepatization. According to Wikipedia, "Hepatization is conversion into a substance resembling the liver; a state of the lungs when gorged with effuse matter, so that they are no longer pervious to the air." Two to three days after consolidation, red hepatization begins. Capillaries within the air sacs become engorged in blood, causing hyperemia. Hyperemia is when excess blood flows to the vessels within a specific organ. Fibrinous exudates begin to form within the air sacs. 
  • Grey hepatization. The stage following red hepatization is called grey hepatization. It occurs two to three days after a red hepatization and lasts between four and eight days. Grey hepatization is an avascular stage, meaning that there is a lack of blood vessels in the tissue of the lungs. During this stage, the lungs take on a grayish color.
  • Resolution. The fourth and final stage of pneumonia is called resolution. During this stage, large amounts of macrophages enter the alveoli. The alveoli are the air spaces in the lungs where carbon dioxide leaves the blood and oxygen enters it.

Treatment of Pneumonia

Bacterial and mycoplasmic pneumonia require penicillin or antibiotics for treatment. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, the efficacy of these medications varies. Viral penicillin, however, is unaffected by antibiotics. The condition heals naturally over time in most cases. Doctors can only offer drugs that combat the symptoms of viral pneumonia. Pneumonia has been a burden on the nation’s health care system. It consistently remains within the top ten most costly health conditions for inpatient hospitalizations annually. The best way to prevent infection is by getting vaccinated every year. Also, get plenty of exercise, keep warm during colder seasons, and avoid those that already have pneumonia. By taking the steps needed to prevent the spread of pneumonia, there is a better chance of containing the infection.

Pneumonia is very serious and can be life-threatening. If you believe you may have pneumonia, come to The Emergency Center immediately. We are here 24/7/365 if you or your family needs emergency care. Never second guess whether or not an illness is severe enough to require emergency attention. The Emergency Center provides up to 23 hours of Observation and offers 24/7 care with NO WAITING. Visit one of The Emergency Center’s convenient 24-hour locations in ArlingtonFort Worth, and San Antonio.