Identifying The Most Common Types of Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection of one or both of the lungs.

The infection can be caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses.

Depending on the cause of the infection, there are different types of pneumonia [1].

The condition can also be classified in different categories based on where the infection was acquired.

There are also some specific types of pneumonia we will talk about.

But for now, let’s take a look at the different groups.

Types according to illness-causing agent

The main agent that causes the infection, be it bacteria, virus, or fungi, is the main factor in classifying types of pneumonia [2].

With that in mind, here are the main groups:

Bacterial pneumonia

Commonly caused by bacteria strains, bacterial pneumonia can affect people of all ages [3].

The result is weakened ability of the body to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.

The signs are breathlessness and pain when you try to take oxygen.

The main bacteria causing this condition are Streptococcus pneumoniae, Chlamydophila pneumonia or Legionella pneumophila.

Depending on the strength of the bacteria, the infection can be either mild or severe.

Viral pneumonia

Caused by viruses like influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, or chickenpox, viral pneumonia is the most common type.

You can catch it via coughing, sneezing, or touching an object contaminated by an infected person.

The signs and symptoms are swollen lungs, and also blocked oxygen flow.

One third of all pneumonia cases are caused by a virus.

After viral pneumonia, bacterial pneumonia is often the aftermath, as the immune system is weakened.

Aspiration pneumonia

Caused by infections or inhalation of food, gases, liquid, or dust.

The illness is also known as anaerobic and necrotizing pneumonia.

Whatever the name, people have inflammation minus the bacterial infection.

This type of pneumonia can be difficult to treat because people that acquire it, are usually sick to begin with.

Mycoplasma pneumonia

Caused by an atypical bacterial, one of the smallest agents that can affect humans.

It is also known as walking pneumonia.

This type of pneumonia is more common among people who are less than 40 years old.

It can be transferred via respiratory fluids, leading to catastrophic epidemics.

People with mycoplasma pneumonia manifest different symptoms than those with bacterial pneumonia.

Some of the common signs include dry cough and mild pneumonia.

Fungal pneumonia

Caused by different endemic or opportunistic fungi that occurs after inhaling spores or conidia.

It is difficult to diagnose fungal pneumonia.

They are not as common in the US, but they are common in African Countries, South American countries, and Mexico.

Types according to where the infection was acquired

Community acquired pneumonia

Happens after acquiring a common viral infection such as the flu.

Patients get the infection outside of hospitals or health care settings, like at school or at work [4].

Hospital acquired pneumonia

Occurs when people are infected when they are admitted to a hospital for another illness [5].

It is more dangerous compared to community acquired pneumonia because you are already sick.

Specific types of pneumonia

Bronchial pneumonia

A class of pneumonia that affects both the bronchi and the lungs.

It can be triggered by other strains, but most common cause is the Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria strain.

Pneumococcal pneumonia

Common among children under 5 years old and adults over 65 years, this condition infects the upper respiratory tract [6].

From there, it can spread to the nervous system, lungs, blood, and ears if not treated.

Lipoid pneumonia

Rare condition in which oily and fatty substances enter the lungs [7].

The most common causes for this type of pneumonia include inhalation, ingestion, and aspiration of fatty substances like petroleum jelly, nasal drops, and mineral oils.

Legionella pneumonia

Caused by the legionella bacterium strain, this is common among smokers and immunocompromised people.

The reason is they inhale the bacteria.

Hypostatic pneumonia

This disease manifests at the base of the chest cavity.

It happens when the lower portions of the lungs are not able to expand properly.

It happens because the patient is either immobile or inactive.

Common among debilitated people and elderly people.

Symptoms of pneumonia

As mentioned previously, the signs and symptoms can vary depending on the types of pneumonia [8].

However, there are some general symptoms you can watch for.

Those include:

  • Coughing that produce mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fever and chills

In addition, type-specific symptoms for bacterial pneumonia include:

  • Bluish color to lips
  • Fever
  • Heavy sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Green, yellow, or bloody mucus
  • Confused mental state or delirium
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shaking chills
  • Shortness of breath that gets worse with activity

People affected by viral pneumonia experience specific symptoms like:

  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Increasing shortness of breath
  • Worsening of the cough

Symptoms for viral pneumonia usually start like flu-like symptoms, and fever occurs after 12-36 hours.

Symptoms for bacterial pneumonia, on the other hand, cause fever as high as 105F along with profuse sweating.

Children under the age of 5 may have fast breathing, while older-people experience lower-than-normal body temperature [9].

And while anyone can get pneumonia, there are certain people that are at a higher risk:

  • Infants up to 2 ages, as their respiratory system is not yet fully developed
  • People over 65 years of age
  • People who have had a stroke
  • Patients that have problem swallowing
  • People with weakened immune system due to disease or use of medications
  • Smokers, as well as people who drink excessive amount of alcohol
  • Patients with medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart failure, and cystic fibrosis

How is pneumonia diagnosed?

A physician will ask you questions like when the symptoms first appeared, as well as your medical history.

A physician will also perform several tests like physical exam, blood test, chest X-ray, sputum test, pulse oximetry, urine test, CT scan, bronchoscopy, and a fluid sample.

In most cases, pneumonia can be diagnosed just with chest X-ray and physical exam.

However, in some severe cases, doctors also order other tests, to check if there are complications.

Possible complications include lung abscesses, impaired breathing, pleural effusion, bacteremia, and in some cases, death.

According to some statistics, more than 2 million people develop pneumonia in the United States, out of which, about 60,000 die.

Treatment and prevention

Treatment depends on the types of pneumonia, as well as severity and general health [10].

In most cases, doctors prescribe antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal drugs.

It all depends on the specific cause and type of pneumonia.

In some cases, doctors also prescribe over-the-counter medication to relieve pain.

Home treatment is also important, and it includes getting a lot of rest, drinking fluids, and not overdoing work too soon.

In severe cases, hospitalization is required to prevent further complications and possible life-threatening situation.

The recovery, same as the treatment, depends on the types of pneumonia and severity.

A younger person will feel back to normal about a week after the treatment.

Older people take longer to recover, and may experience lingering fatigue.

The first line of defense against pneumonia is to get vaccinated.

There are two types of pneumonia vaccines, and your doctor will tell you which one is suitable for you.

Prevnar 13 is effective against 13 types of pneumonia caused by bacteria, and the CDC recommends it for babies under the age of 2, adults over 65, and adults with chronic conditions increasing the risk of pneumonia.

The other vaccine is Pneumovax 23, effective against 23 types of pneumonia caused by bacteria, and recommended for adult smokers, adults over 65, and people with chronic conditions.

In addition to vaccination, there are other prevention tips you can implement:

  • Quit smoking
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle to improve your immune system
  • Make sure to get enough rest
  • Practice regular exercise
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water
  • Stick to a healthy diet
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Dispose of used tissues promptly

Sources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC424640/
  2. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs331/en/
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/pneumonia.htm
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1497132/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15653986
  6. https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-health/pneumonia/
  7. http://www.lung.org/assets/documents/research/pi-trend-report.pdf
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4525785/
  9. https://www.thoracic.org/patients/patient-resources/resources/top-pneumonia-facts.pdf
  10. https://statistics.blf.org.uk/pneumonia

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