Not so very long ago, a diagnosis of pneumonia was a life threatening event. Suffering from a dangerous disease, people with pneumonia were sent summarily to bed and treated as if they were on their deathbeds. As late as the mid-1900s, pneumonia was almost a death sentence. It has only been within the last decades that pneumonia has become easily treatable in the Western world, and even then, it is still a grave danger in many parts of the world. Pneumonia treatment consists of several very simple steps, but if those steps are not following, the disease could be fatal.
The clinical definition of pneumonia is that it is an inflammatory disease of the lungs. Doctors would say it is an alveolar inflammation as well as an incidence where the alveoli fill with fluid. The alveoli are microscopic sacs within the lungs that allow the lungs to absorb oxygen. People get pneumonia in many ways, including infection from bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. Pneumonia can also be caused by an injury to the lungs, chemical exposure (such as from working with dangerous substances) or it can be “idiopathic,” meaning that the cause of the pneumonia is unknown.
Pneumonia does not discriminate based on age, gender, or race, but it is the leading cause of death for elderly people and people who are chronically or terminally ill. (Meaning that as the body weakens from other diseases it becomes more susceptible to pneumonia.) Around the world, pneumonia is also the leading cause of death for children under five years of age.
Pneumonia symptoms can be painful and nerve wracking. They include an intense, sometimes painful cough, chest pain, fever and, due to the nature of pneumonia’s involvement with the lungs, difficulty in breathing. Pneumonia is generally diagnosed with tools such as xrays and a medical examination of the sputum (sometimes known as phlegm) that the body is producing.
There is no “standard” treatment for pneumonia. Instead, the pneumonia treatment used in each case of pneumonia depends on the cause of the disease. For example, pneumonia treatment for bacterial pneumonia is simply antibiotics. The most common pneumonia treatment is hospitalization. With hospitalization, doctors and nurses can see to it that pneumonia patients get plenty of rest, fluids, and oral antibiotics. After a patient with pneumonia has stabilized, they are often sent home for home care. This usually includes instructions to give the pneumonia patient complete rest and relaxation.
For some people, pneumonia treatment may require more advanced care. This is especially true for people who are having trouble breathing, older people or people weakened by complications or by some other condition. If symptoms worsen or the person is unable to breathe on their own, then the only course of action is to remain hospitalized and under the strict supervision of doctors and nurses until the complications subside and breathing has returned to normal.
There are also vaccines for certain types of, but not all, pneumonia. Some foundations are working to bring pneumonia vaccines to places that are the hardest hit – such as still developing countries – by the onset of pneumonia. In these countries, pneumonia can be a leading cause of death for young children under five years of age.
All in all, the prognosis for someone with pneumonia depends on the appropriate pneumonia treatment, any complications that may or may not have occurred, and the person’s underlying health at the time of contracting pneumonia.
Unlike with viral pneumonia, antibiotics are useful and can be used to treat bacterial pneumonia. Sometimes though, even with viral pneumonia, antibiotics are used to help prevent infections from occurring in the delicate lungs.
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