Ask Your Doctor: PNEUMONIA

anguillian
By anguillian May 8, 2017 12:26 Updated

 

 

Pneumonia affects many people throughout the world, sometimes causing severe complications that can include death. Complications are more common in infants and young children, people older than age 65, and people with health problems or weakened immune systems.
What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. The air sacs may fill with fluid or pus, causing cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing. A variety of organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, can cause pneumonia. Pneumonia can range in seriousness from mild to life-threatening. Pneumonia can affect people of any age, but it is more common – and can be more serious – in certain groups of people, such as the very young or the elderly.

What causes pneumonia?
The vast majority of cases of pneumonia is the result of a pneumococcal infection, caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae. Other organisms can cause pneumonia. They include: Haemophilus influenzae, Staphylococcus aureus, as well as viruses and, more rarely, fungi.
As well as bacterial pneumonia, other types of pneumonia include:
• viral pneumonia – most commonly caused by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and sometimes influenza type A or B. Viruses are a common cause of pneumonia in young children
• aspiration pneumonia – caused by breathing in vomit, a foreign object, such as a peanut, or a harmful substance such as smoke or a chemical.

• hospital-acquired pneumonia – pneumonia that develops in hospital while being treated for another condition or having an operation.
What are some symptoms of pneumonia?
The symptoms of pneumonia can develop suddenly over 24 to 48 hours, or they may come on more slowly over several days. Some of these symptoms include the following:
• a cough – which may be dry, or produce thick yellow, green, brown or blood-stained mucus (phlegm)
• difficulty breathing – your breathing may be rapid and shallow, and you may feel breathless, even when resting
• rapid heartbeat
• fever
• feeling generally unwell
• sweating and shivering
• loss of appetite
• chest pain – which gets worse when breathing or coughing

How is pneumonia diagnosed?
Your doctor may be able to diagnose pneumonia by asking about your symptoms and examining your chest. Further tests, like an X-ray, may be needed in some cases. Pneumonia can be difficult to diagnose because it shares many symptoms with other conditions, such as the common cold, bronchitis and asthma. If you have symptoms suggestive of pneumonia always seek medical attention.

Treatment
Treatment of pneumonia will depend on the type of pneumonia and other factors, such as age, severity of the pneumonia and overall health of the individual. Treatment involves curing the infection and preventing complications. Although most symptoms ease in a few days or weeks, the feeling of tiredness can persist for a month or more.

Complications of pneumonia
Complications of pneumonia are more common in young children, the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes mellitus. Various complications can occur if the correct treatment is not undertaken. Complications include the development of pleurisy, lung abscess, and very rarely-septicaemia which can result in death.

Preventing pneumonia
Although most cases of pneumonia are bacterial and are not passed on from one person to another, ensuring good standards of hygiene will help prevent organisms spreading. Individuals are encouraged to:
• cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief or tissue when you cough or sneeze
• throw away used tissues immediately
• wash your hands regularly to avoid transferring germs to other people or objects.
A healthy lifestyle can also help prevent pneumonia. You should avoid smoking as it damages your lungs and increases the chance of infection.
Vaccinations. Vaccinations are available for pneumonia. Two different pneumococcal shots are recommended for people age 65 and older. Some people who have long-term (chronic) conditions also need the pneumococcal vaccine.

Conclusion
Pneumonia is a lung infection that can make you very sick. For most people, pneumonia can be treated at home. It often clears up in 2 to 3 weeks. In older adults, babies, and people with other diseases, pneumonia can pose several challenges and the individuals can become very ill. They may need to be in the hospital. Once the diagnosis is correctly made, and the proper treatment instituted, most individuals recover and avoid many of the complications associated with this condition.

Ask Your Doctor is a health education column and is not a substitute for medical advice from your physician. The reader should consult his or her physician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field are ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.

Dr Brett Hodge MB BS DGO MRCOG, is an Obstetrician/Gynaecologist and Family Doctor who has over thirty-two years in clinical practice. Dr Hodge has a medical practice in The Johnson Building in The Valley (Tel: 264 4975828).

anguillian
By anguillian May 8, 2017 12:26 Updated

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