Pneumonia is a lung infection that affects 3 million people in the United States annually, and from which 5% of those diagnosed will die annually. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States - particularly among seniors and people with chronic medical conditions.
It has been passed down from generation to generation that you can get pneumonia if you go outside with your hair wet or wear light clothing in the winter - our moms were wrong.
Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Normally a person's body is designed to fight these things off, but if a person's immune system is already compromised or there is long-term, extended exposure to a particular potential cause these thing can build up and result in infection. As the infection sets in the body works overtime to rid itself of the infection by generating pus or mucus that builds up in the lungs. In this condition the lungs are unable to expand as normal and are not able to work as efficiently to get the oxygen out to the rest of the body.
The most common form is pneumococcal pneumonia, which is a bacterial infection. Other forms of pneumonia include viral, fungal, mycoplasma, aspiration, and pneumocystis carinii (usually among those with compromised immune systems). Bacterial and fungal pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics.
There are two main ways that pneumonia can affect the lungs - by affecting an entire portion of a lung, or by affecting the tubes that bring oxygen into the lungs (bronchi).
Symptoms of Pneumonia
Some of these symptoms may vary in severity and rate of onset, but they are, in general:
- shortness of breath
- high fever
- chest pain
- increased amount of phlegm and change in color (yellow, red, or green)
How to Prevent Pneumonia
People over 65 are of particular higher risk as are those who are smokers, have chronic illnesses (heart, lung disease, diabetes), live in a nursing home or long-term care facility, have HIV or other condition with a weakened immune system, or are pregnant.