Sunday, December 11, 2005
bronchitis + pneumonia = no fun
What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection of one or both lungs which is usually caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Prior to the discovery of antibiotics, one third of all people who developed pneumonia subsequently died from the infection. Currently, over 3 million people develop pneumonia each year in the United States. Over a half a million of these people are admitted to a hospital for treatment. Although most of these people recover, approximately five per cent will die from pneumonia. Pneumonia is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
How do people "catch pneumonia?"
Some cases of pneumonia are contracted by breathing in small droplets that contain the organisms that can cause pneumonia. These droplets get into the air when a person infected with these germs coughs or sneezes. In other cases, pneumonia is caused when bacteria or viruses that are normally present in the mouth, throat, or nose inadvertently enter the lung. During sleep it is quite common for people to aspirate secretions from the mouth, throat, or nose. Normally, the body's reflex response (coughing back up the secretions) and immune system will prevent the aspirated organisms from causing pneumonia. However, if a person is in a weakened condition from another illness, a severe pneumonia can develop. People with recent viral infections, lung disease, heart disease, and swallowing problems, as well as alcoholics, drug users and those who have suffered a stroke or seizure are at higher risk for developing pneumonia than the general population.
Once organisms enter the lungs, they usually settle in the air sacs of the lung where they rapidly grow in number. This area of the lung then becomes filled with fluid and pus as the body attempts to fight off the infection.