Pneumonia is an infection of the lung. It can be caused by many different agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. In many developing countries, pneumonia is one of the most common fatal infections acquired by patients in hospitals.
Doctor Nkuranga John Baptist working at the university hospital of Butare says that, in many cases, the lungs become infected simply because they are overwhelmed with some foreign agents such as bacteria and smoke particles.
He adds that a variety of conditions can increase the likelihood that a person will contract pneumonia. In these conditions, the person’s lungs may already be weakened or damaged by some other problems.
Conditions that can lead to pneumonia infection include; damage to the epiglottis; Stroke, seizures, alcohol, and various drugs can prevent the epiglottis from functioning normally. When this happens, materials that have been swallowed may get into the lungs, causing an infection there. Viruses can damage the cilia that line the respiratory tract. Foreign bodies may then get into the lungs more easily, causing an infection. One such virus is HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus), which causes AIDS. It is important to notice that Pneumonia is a major health problem for people with AIDS and those who have HIV in their bodies.
Additionally; as people grow older, their immune systems often become weaker. They are less able to fight off infections that once would not have been a problem. Pneumonia is also a common complication of surgery. Some drugs used during surgery affect a person’s normal breathing pattern. He or she may not be able to cough or breathe as deeply as usual. Foreign objects are not expelled from the respiratory tract. They may get into the lungs and cause an infection.
The doctor says that some organisms can cause pneumonia disease and some of these organisms include; bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.
Bacteria are the primary cause of pneumonia in older children and adults. The most common of these bacteria is the streptococcus pneumoniae.
Viruses are the most common cause of pneumonia in young children. These viruses also cause other infections of the respiratory system. Such viruses include; the Haemophilus influenza virus and others that cause tonsillitis and the common cold.
A protozoan known as pneumocystis carinii causes a form of pneumonia in people with weakened immune systems. The condition pneumocystis carinii pneumonia is one of the most serious medical problems for people with HIV /AIDS. It also affects people whose immune systems have been weakened by chemotherapy or cancer.
The primary symptoms of pneumonia are fever, chills, cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Doctor says that the patient often coughs up sputum usually made up of saliva, mucus, dead cells, and other materials that may be streaked with pus or blood.
In the severe cases, a patient shows signs of cyanosis. Cyanosis is caused when a patient’s blood is not getting enough oxygen. It is characterized by a blue tint on the nail beds and sometimes lips.
Diagnosis of pneumonia
Pneumonia can usually be diagnosed on the basis of a patient’s symptoms. A doctor will also listen to the patient’s chest with a stethoscope. If the lungs are infected, they produce an unusual sound when the patient breathes in and out. Tapping on the patient’s back is also a test for pneumonia. Normally, the tapping produces a hollow sound because the lungs are filled with air. If pneumonia is present, the lungs may contain fluid. In this case, the sound is dull thump.
Some forms of bacterial pneumonia can be diagnosed by laboratory tests. A sample of the patient’s sputum is taken. The sample is then stained with dyes and examined under a microscope. The organisms causing the disease can often be seen and identified.
X rays can also be used to diagnose pneumonia. Dark spots on the patient’s lungs may indicate the presence of an infection. The appearance of the spots may give a clue to the type of infection that has occurred.
Pneumonia often develops as a complication following an attack of influenza. To protect against this possibility, a person should be vaccinated against influenza each year. This advice is especially important for elderly people and people who live in crowded conditions that expose them to the disease.
Vaccine has been developed against streptococcus pneumoniae. It works very well and is recommended for patients with chronic illnesses.
Patients may be put on a regular schedule of the drug trimethoprim sulfate and inhaled pentamidine. This treatment has dramatically reduced the rate of deaths from pneumonia among people with AIDS.
At one time, many cases of pneumonia were fatal and treatment cannot be taken for granted. However, many cases of bacterial pneumonia can be cured. Antibiotics are given as soon as the infection is diagnosed. Viral pneumonia remains the most difficult to cure. There are not many drugs that kill viruses. Amantadine and acyclovir are two exceptions. They are sometimes helpful in treating some forms of viral pneumonia.