Pneumonia refers to a type of lower respiratory infection that leads to inflammation in one or both of your lungs.1 In the U.S., more than 3 million people develop pneumonia each year. Most of them recover, but at least 5 percent succumb to this infection.2 In the U.K., 1 in 1,000 adults become ill with pneumonia each year. It usually strikes during cold seasons, like autumn and winter.3
What Causes Pneumonia?
It is important to know that pneumonia is not an infection with one single trigger. There are more than 30 different causes that can lead to this illness, and the cause must be determined in order to treat it properly.4 Bacteria, viruses and fungi are some of the major causes of pneumonia, although there are certain factors that can increase your risk of acquiring this illness.
When a person breathes germs or other pneumonia-causing entities into the lungs, and his or her body’s immune system cannot prevent entry, the harmful organisms end up in the small air sacs called alveoli where they multiply and cause inflammation.
The body responds by sending white blood cells to attack the infection, and this causes the alveoli to fill up with pus or fluid, resulting in flu-like symptoms.5 Pneumonia may also manifest as a complication of the flu. It is much more serious than bronchitis, but these two illnesses may occur together, a condition known as bronchopneumonia.
There are many different types of pneumonia, and they can be classified according to how the infection was acquired, which parts of the lungs the infection occurs and the particular strain that caused the infection.
The symptoms of pneumonia usually include cough, fever, chills and shortness of breath. Other particular signs may also manifest, depending on whether your pneumonia is bacterial or viral.
There are certain risk factors that can increase your chances of acquiring this illness, such as having a recent viral respiratory infection, cigarette smoking, recent surgery or trauma, and chronic lung disease.
Warning: Pneumonia Can Be Dangerous if Not Treated
Pneumonia can be life-threatening if not treated immediately. In the U.S., over 53,000 people die annually because of this infection.6 People of all ages can acquire pneumonia, including very young children.
In fact, pneumonia is the leading cause of death in children aged 5 and below worldwide. Although babies, elderly and people with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk of getting afflicted with this illness, healthy people may also fall victim to this illness.
The good news is that pneumonia can be treated, and making a full recovery is possible. However, keep in mind that certain germs, bacteria or viruses are more serious than others. People who are already in ill health, such as cancer patients, are also at a heightened risk of dying from pneumonia.