Pneumonia, Animation

September 16, 2019

Pneumonia is a common infection of the lungs
affecting mostly the microscopic air sacs – the alveoli. The function of the respiratory system is
to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide between the body and the environment. This process takes place in the alveoli of
the lungs. Inhaled oxygen moves from the alveoli into
the blood in the capillaries while carbon dioxide relocates from the blood to the alveoli
to be exhaled out of the body. In people with pneumonia, these air sacs are
filled with fluid or pus, hindering the gas exchange process, resulting in difficulty
breathing and a cough reflex. Other symptoms may include chest pain, fever,
chills and confusion. Pneumonia is not a single disease. A large number of various organisms can cause
pneumonia. Bacterial pneumonia is the most common, with
Streptococcus pneumoniae being the main culprit. Viral pneumonia is more common in young children. A variety of viruses are implicated with each
of them predominating in different times of the year. Pneumonia commonly starts as an infection
of the upper respiratory tract – a cold or flu, which then spreads to the lungs. The most common routes of transmission are
through inhalation of contaminated aerosol droplets and aspiration of oral bacteria into
the lungs. The setting in which pneumonia develops is
an important information as it helps to identify the source of the causative agent and hence
the treatment approach. Generally, community-acquired pneumonia is
less dangerous than health care-associated, hospital-acquired, or ventilator-associated
pneumonia. This is because an infection contracted outside
health care facilities is less likely to involve multidrug-resistant bacteria. Patients who are already in hospitals are
more likely to have other health problems and weakened immune system and are thus less
able to fight the disease. Pneumonia is often diagnosed based on physical
exams and a chest X-ray. Clinical assessment for children is primarily
based on a rapid respiratory rate, a cough, presence of lower chest wall indrawing, and
the level of consciousness. Adults are usually checked for vital signs
and presence of chest crackles. Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics. The choice of antibiotics depends on the patient’s
age, health conditions and how the infection was acquired. Viral pneumonia caused by influenza viruses
may be treated with antiviral drugs. Hospitalization may be required for severe
cases with breathing difficulty, especially for young children, the elderly, and those
with other health problems.

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