About Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. Pneumonia is the single largest cause of death in children worldwide. Every year, it kills an estimated 1.6 million children under the age of five years, accounting for 18% of all deaths of children under five years old worldwide. Pneumonia is also a particular concern if you’re older than 65 or have a chronic illness or weak immune system.

Causes:

  • Community-acquired pneumonia – from contact with germs you encounter in the course of your normal routine
  • Health-care-acquired pneumonia – difficult-to-treat bacterial pneumonia acquired in health care facilities
  • Inhalation or aspiration pneumonia – occurs when you breathe foreign matter into your lungs
  • Opportunistic viral, bacterial and fungal pneumonias -strikes people with weakened immune systems

Transmission

  • The viruses and bacteria that are commonly found in the nose or throat, can infect the lungs if they are inhaled.
  • Air-borne droplets from a cough or sneeze.
  • Pneumonia may spread through blood, especially during and shortly after birth.

Risk Factors

  • Very young children, whose immune systems aren’t fully developed
  • If you’re age 65 or older, particularly if you have other conditions that make you more prone to developing pneumonia
  • People with immune deficiency diseases
  • People with chronic illnesses such as heart disease, emphysema and other lung diseases.
  • If your immune system has been weakened by chemotherapy or long-term use of immunosuppressant drugs.
  • People who smoke. Smoking damages your body’s natural defenses against the bacteria and viruses that cause pneumonia.
  • Having chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and using inhaled corticosteroids for more than 24 weeks.
  • If you work in agriculture, in construction or around certain industrial chemicals or animals.
  • Exposure to air pollution or toxic fumes can also contribute to lung inflammation.

Signs and Symptoms

Pneumonia can often be mistaken with the symptoms of the flu. Symptoms can vary depending on your age and general health

  • Fever
  • Lower-than-normal body temperature in older people
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Shaking chills
  • Chest pain that fluctuates with breathing )
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue

Complications

Pneumonia is more likely to cause complications in older people, smokers and people with heart failure or lung disease, such as COPD. Pneumonia complications may include:

  • Bacteria in your bloodstream. In pneumonia, alveoli contain bacteria that may enter the bloodstream during gas exchange. Infection then spreads through the bloodstream, potentially causing shock and failure of multiple organs.
  • Septic shock. Unchecked bacterial growth in the bloodstream can shut down normal circulation, cause uncontrolled tissue swelling and possibly organ failure, which can lead to death.
  • Fluid accumulation and infection around your lungs. When the pleurae around your lungs become inflamed as a result of pneumonia, fluid can accumulate and may become infected (emphysema).
  • Lung abscess.
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Underlying lung disease of any kind, especially COPD, makes you more susceptible to ARDS.

Prevention

Although there is a long list of germs and inhaled irritants that can cause pneumonia, vaccination can significantly lower your risk from acquiring pneumonia:

  • Influenza vaccine – the influenza virus can be a direct cause of viral pneumonia while bacterial pneumonia is also a common complication of the flu.
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine – against streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria (pneumococcus) is advised for adults specially for those older than age 65 years old. The vaccine is also recommended for anyone at high risk i.e. smokers; people with heart disease, lung disease, other chronic conditions; and anyone with reduced immune defenses.
  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine – is advised by doctors for all children younger than age 2 and for children ages 2 to 5 years who are at particular risk including those with immune system deficiency, cancer, cardiovascular disease or sickle cell anemia.

Vaccines available to prevent Pneumonia:

Influenza Vaccines
Pneumonia Vaccines
 
Resources for this article:
http://www.mayoclinic.com
http://www.who.int
http://www.cdc.gov
http://www.medicine.net