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Pneumonia: Introduction

Pneumonia is a general term for a wide variety of conditions that cause an inflammation of the lungs. Pneumonia is most often caused by a bacterial infection (bacterial pneumonia) or a viral infection (viral pneumonia). However, pneumonia can also be caused by a fungal infection, yeast infection, trauma, or from inflammation of the lungs due to exposure to toxic substances, such as poisonous gases.

Inflammation of the lungs by any of these causes leads to symptoms that can include a wet cough that produces white or yellow phlegm and shortness of breath. Fever can be a symptom of pneumonia caused by an infection. Pneumonia is a common complication of a variety of diseases and can lead to more complications, which can be serious, even life threatening. Pneumonia is a frequent cause of death. For more information about additional symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of pneumonia.

Pneumonia is a common disease that can occur at any time of the year. It is most common in smokers and people who have chronic lung infections and diseases, such as lung cancer, acute bronchitis, congestive heart failure, or emphysema. Other people at risk for pneumonia include those who take drugs that suppress the immune system, such as corticosteroids and chemotherapy. People who have diseases that result in an impaired immune system, such as HIV/AIDS, are also at risk. In addition, any person who is chronically ill or very weak and is unable to cough up phlegm from the lungs is also susceptible to pneumonia.

Making a diagnosis of pneumonia begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms, smoking history, and exposure to infections and lung irritants. A physical examination is also performed and includes listening with a stethoscope to the sounds that lungs make during respiration. Lung sounds that may point to a diagnosis of pneumonia include a bubbling or crackling sound and decreased lung sounds. A physician or nurse practitioner will also tap on the chest with the fingers to listen for certain sounds that may also point to a diagnosis of pneumonia.

Diagnostic testing generally includes a chest X-ray. Depending on a person's condition and medical history, testing may also include lung function tests, such as a spirometry, which measures how much air is moved in and out of the lungs during breathing. A CT scan of the chest can help to evaluate such factors as the presence of other lung conditions, including COPD and congestive heart failure.

A sample of phlegm that is coughed up from the lungs may be tested for the presence of bacteria or other pathogens. The lungs may also be examined in a procedure called a bronchoscopy. In a bronchoscopy, a flexible tube fitted with a tiny camera is inserted through the mouth and throat to view the inside of the lungs. Tissue or phlegm samples can also be taken in this procedure and are examined in the laboratory.

The level of oxygen in the blood is generally tested using a painless device called a pulse oximetry, which is clipped onto a fingertip. For people who have a severe case of pneumonia with serious, life-threatening shortness of breath, an arterial blood gas test may be done. Is this test a sample of blood taken from an artery is measured very accurately for many parameters of effective breathing, including the oxygen level in the blood. Blood cultures may also be done to check the blood for infection.

It is possible that a diagnosis of pneumonia can be missed or delayed because symptoms may be mild or attributed to other conditions. Mild cases of pneumonia that do not require hospitalization are often referred to as walking pneumonia. For information on misdiagnosis and to learn about diseases that can mimic pneumonia, refer to misdiagnosis of pneumonia.

The treatment for pneumonia involves a multifaceted approach. Treatment plans vary depending on the cause, the severity of the symptoms, the presence of complications, general health, and an individual's medical history. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of pneumonia. ...more »

Pneumonia: Pneumonia is a lung disease that can be caused by a variety of viruses, bacteria, and sometimes fungi. The U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and ... more about Pneumonia.

Pneumonia: Infection of the lung by bacteria, viruses or fungus. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Pneumonia is available below.

Pneumonia: Symptoms

The types and severity of symptoms of pneumonia vary between individuals depending on a variety of factors, such as age, general health, medical history, and the presence of complications. In generally healthy adults, pneumonia can be mild in some cases and not even require hospitalization. However, a strong strain of pneumonia can be fatal to people who ...more symptoms »

Pneumonia: Treatments

One goal of treatment of pneumonia is to control symptoms, such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, until a person recovers. Another goal is to minimize the development of serious complications, such as severe shortness of breath and hypoxia. With treatment, generally healthy adults can often recover from bacterial pneumonia or ...more treatments »

Pneumonia: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of pneumonia may be delayed or missed because some symptoms, such as cough, shortness of breath, fever, fatigue, and wheezing can be similar to symptoms of other conditions and diseases. These include upper respiratory infection, influenza, congestive heart failure, COPD, acute bronchitis$, pleural effusion, and cold.

It is important to ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Pneumonia

Treatments for Pneumonia

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Pneumonia:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Pneumonia?

Pneumonia: Related Patient Stories

Pneumonia: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Pneumonia.

Alternative Treatments for Pneumonia

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Pneumonia may include:

Types of Pneumonia

Diagnostic Tests for Pneumonia

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Pneumonia: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Pneumonia:

Causes of Pneumonia

More information about causes of Pneumonia:

Disease Topics Related To Pneumonia

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Pneumonia:

Pneumonia: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Pneumonia

Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely to cause some level of diarrhea in patients. The reason is more »

Chronic lung diseases hard to diagnose: Some of the chronic lung diseases are difficult to diagnose. Even the well-knowns conditions such as asthma or lung cancer often fail to be diagnosed early. Some of the more »

Pneumonia: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Pneumonia

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Pneumonia:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Pneumonia, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Pneumonia: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Pneumonia: Animations

Prognosis for Pneumonia

Research about Pneumonia

Visit our research pages for current research about Pneumonia treatments.

Clinical Trials for Pneumonia

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Pneumonia include:

Statistics for Pneumonia

Pneumonia: Broader Related Topics

Pneumonia Message Boards

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User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Pneumonia, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a lung disease that can be caused by a variety of viruses, bacteria, and sometimes fungi. The U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate nearly 90,000 people in the United States died from one of several kinds of pneumonia in 1999. In the United States, pneumonia is the fifth leading cause of death [Natl Vital Stat Report 47 (25), 10/5/1999]. Rates of infection are three-times higher in African Americans than in whites and are 5- to 10-times higher in Native-American adults and 10-times higher in Native-American children [J Infect Dis;170:368-76, 1994]. (Source: excerpt from Pneumococcal Pneumonia, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID)

Definitions of Pneumonia:

Inflammation of the lungs with consolidation and exudation. - (Source - Diseases Database)

Respiratory disease characterized by inflammation of the lung parenchyma (excluding the bronchi) with congestion caused by viruses or bacteria or irritants - (Source - WordNet 2.1)


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