What Is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. The infection can be bacterial, viral, fungal, or other organisms.
How is pneumonia diagnosed?
This disease is most commonly diagnosed by a chest x-ray. Sometimes a patient may need a CT scan to diagnose, particularly when the chest x-ray is abnormal, or if it’s is difficult to see.
Signs and Symptoms
Fortunately, most cases in children and adults are mild. Mild cases causes symptoms of cough, fever, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
Healthy people with mild infection can usually be treated at home with antibiotic pills and cough medicine. Some patients may also require inhalers and steroids. Treatment is typically for 7-10 days.
Complete recovery may take as long as 4-6 weeks. Once the infection has inflamed the airways of the lungs and the body has battled the infection, it can take weeks to repair the inflammation in the airways. The majority of patients do recover fully without permanent damage to their lungs.
What can make pneumonia more severe?
If you have other illnesses such as COPD/ emphysema, asthma, diabetes, heart conditions, cancer, or are pregnant your pneumonia may become more severe.
Pneumonia Signs and Symptoms
Pneumonia of moderate severity causes the same symptoms as a mild version, but also nausea, vomiting, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
Patients with moderate pneumonia may need to be admitted to the hospital for IV antibiotics and may need oxygen. Usually, within a couple days, it is under control and you can go home on antibiotic pills. You may also need to continue oxygen at home.
Recovery from moderate pneumonia may take weeks. After the antibiotics have taken care of the infection, it can take 6-8 weeks for the inflamation in your lungs to go away and for your lungs to return to normal. You may need to stay on oxygen for a short time after you leave the hospital. If you have chronic lung disease, such as COPD, you may need to be on oxygen long term.
Signs and Symptoms
The most severe forms can cause all of the above symptoms, but also confusion, lethargy, low blood pressure, fast heart rate, and such difficulty breathing that you may need a machine to help you breath.
Patients with severe pneumonia usually need transport to the hospital by ambulance. In the Emergency Department, the patient will need immediate, life-saving interventions such as a tube placed in the windpipe connected to a machine to assist breathing. These patients also often require lots of IV fluids and antibiotics in the IV. Strong medication may have to be given through the IV to raise the blood pressure to a more normal level. The patient will usually be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit where they will continue to receive the treatment started in the Emergency Department as well as medications to stabilize other chronic health problems that are affected by the infection. Nurses with specialized training will care for the patient and attend to their special needs.
Recovery from severe pneumonia is usually long and complex. Some patients die despite the best efforts of the ICU team. Patients that survive often take months to recover. After being in Intensive care on a breathing machine, patients can be quite debilitated. Once the patient is taken off the machine, they will like stay in ICU for a couple more days to be sure they are stable and improving. They will then be transferred to a regular hospital ward until they are strong enough to go home, or are transferred to a rehabilitation facility until they regain their strength. These patients often have to be on oxygen for a while and may need it long term.