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Pneumonia: Causes and Symptoms


Pneumonia occurs when your lungs acquire an infection.  There are a variety of germs that can cause this infection, including bacteria, different types of viruses and even fungi. 

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As you breathe in these substances, they settle into the air sacs – called alveoli – of your lungs.  Here they grow and overtake your system’s normal defenses.


The air sacs of your lungs then fill with pus and mucus in an attempt to fight the infection.  Unfortunately, this proves futile.  The inflammation only makes these sacs less elastic.  And this prevents oxygen from properly reaching your blood stream.


As you try harder to breathe, in an attempt to provide your body with the oxygen it needs, you feel short of breath.  The accompanying swelling also causes many of the other symptoms of pneumonia, especially the characteristic cough, the chest pain and fever.


This may be difficult to believe, but pneumonia is not a single disease.  Because it can be caused by different germs, there are different types of pneumonia.  In fact, this disease has over 30 different causes!  Some of the least likely causes include breathing in dust, chemicals, even food or liquid.


Just as there are a variety of causes for pneumonia, various parts of your lungs may be affected.  Lobar pneumonia, for example, only affects a single lobe or section of the lungs.  Bronchial pneumonia, by contrast, involves the tubes or bronchi around the lungs which are responsible for brining the air into the organ.


The symptoms of pneumonia are as diverse as the various types of the illness.  How severe your set of symptoms may be depends on your age and the type of pneumonia that you’ve developed.  All types of pneumonia share a cough, as well as the expelling of a yellow-greenish phlegm or mucus. 


Also characteristic of pneumonia is a shortness of breath, chest pain and a fever.  Many of those individuals who are afflicted with pneumonia describe a feeling of being extremely tired and not feeling well at all.


There are several ways for your personal health care practitioner to confirm whether you have pneumonia.  He’ll first take his stethoscope and listen for any abnormal bubbling, crackling or even rumblings from your chest.  These unusual and inappropriate sounds indicate the presence of a thick liquid in your lungs. They may also indicate the presence of an inflammation.


You’ll more than likely have to undergo a chest x-ray.  This will confirm the presence of the infection as well as determine the extent and the location of the infection. This is the only way to definitively diagnosis a case of pneumonia.


But, the chances are your health care practitioner won’t stop with the x-ray.  No doubt, she’ll have you undergo several blood tests.  At least one of these will check on the level of your white cell count.  Others may search for the presence of viruses and bacteria.


In another attempt to identify the microorganism that’s at the root of your pneumonia, she may also examine a sample of your phlegm.


How extensive this testing is depends on how ill you are as well as your underlying risk factors.  Another consideration in the testing depends on whether your system is responding to the therapy she’s providing you.



Note: Some statements in this article may not be approved by the FDA. This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice.


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