The pathology of pneumonia is caused by an infection in the lungs. This infection can be bacterial, viral, or fungal, and it often starts out as a complication of the flu. People of all ages can get pneumonia, but people older than 65 or those with compromised immune systems are at greater risk.
Often the symptoms of pneumonia are very similar to typical flu symptoms. The symptoms of pneumonia are fever, cough, chills, muscle pain and shortness of breath. Pneumonia is dangerous when a person is experiencing shortness of breath, chest pain, or a fever of more than 101 degrees F (38.3 degrees C). When a case of the flu gets worse over time rather than improving, it may be a symptom of pneumonia.
The pathology of pneumonia is sometimes categorized based on the way a person contracted the disease. Some cases of pneumonia are simply results of exposure to infection in everyday life, perhaps at school or work. It is also common to see the pathology of pneumonia take hold during a hospital stay, especially if a person has been on a ventilator. Aspiration, where a person vomits and then inhales some of the material, can also cause pneumonia. Like most infections, a weakened immune system can also increase the risk for this disease.
To diagnose pneumonia, a doctor will first use a stethoscope and listen to the patient’s lungs for sounds of fluid. A chest X-ray can also reveal a lung infection. Blood or mucus cultures can be tested for certain types of bacteria or viruses that might be the cause behind the illness.
If the pathology of pneumonia becomes more severe, it can spread the infection into the bloodstream. Another possible complication is inflammation of the pleura, the membrane that covers the lungs. Acute pulmonary distress syndrome (APDS) is the most serious complication. It causes difficulty breathing, which can deprive the body of needed oxygen.
When the pathology of pneumonia is bacterial, antibiotics are the most effective treatment. There is no simple treatment for a viral infection, however, and most physicians recommend lots of rest and fluids to let the body’s natural defenses defeat the illness. If pneumonia is serious or if the patient is at high risk for complications, hospitalization may be necessary.
The pathology of pneumonia is varied and often changes. As pneumonia is treated more commonly, the bacteria that cause the infection are evolving to be resistant to common antibiotics. Preventing pneumonia is one way to deal with these highly resistant strains of bacteria.