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Pneumonia is a serious lung infection. There are a number of causes, including bacteria, fungi and viruses.

Pneumonia can range from mild to severe to chronic, and can even be fatal at times. Its severity depends on the type of organism causing pneumonia, as well as patients age and the persons underlying health condition.

Pneumonia is a surprisingly common lung condition with millions of cases per year.

Bacterial pneumonia's tend to be the most serious and, in adults, the most common cause of pneumonia. The most common pneumonia causing bacterium in adults is Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus).

Respiratory viruses are the most common causes of pneumonia in young children, peaking between the ages of 2 and 3. By school age, the bacterium Mycoplasma pneumoniae becomes more common.

In some people, particularly the elderly and those who are debilitated, bacterial pneumonia or lingular pneumonia may follow the sufferer having the flu or a serious common cold which has already weakened the lungs.

People who have trouble swallowing are at risk of aspiration pneumonia. In this condition, food, liquid, or saliva accidentally goes into the airways. It is more common in people who have had a stroke, Parkinson's disease, or previous throat surgery.

It's often harder to treat pneumonia in patients who are in a hospital, or live in a nursing home. It's a good reason to study this and other serious respiratory conditions and how the medical conditions may be treated successfully.

Other types of pneumonia are:

Symptoms of Bacterial Pneumonia

The main symptoms of pneumonia are:

Exams and Tests for Bacterial Pneumonia

If you have pneumonia, you are working hard to breathe or may be breathing fast.

Crackles are heard when listening to your chest with a stethoscope. Other abnormal breathing sounds may also be heard through the stethoscope or via percussion (tapping on your chest wall).

The health care provider will likely order a chest xray if pneumonia is suspected.

Some patients may need other tests, including:

Treatment of Bacterial Pneumonia

If the cause is bacterial or "lingular pneuminia" the physician will try to cure lung infection using strong antibiotics. If the cause is viral, typical antibiotics will NOT be effective. Sometimes, however, your doctor may use antiviral medication. It may be difficult to distinguish between viral and bacterial pneumonia, so you may receive antibiotics.

Patients with mild pneumonia who are otherwise healthy are usually treated with oral macrolide antibiotics (azithromycin, clarithromycin, or erythromycin).

Patients with other serious illnesses, such as heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or emphysema, kidney disease, or diabetes are often given one of the following:

Fluoroquinolone (levofloxacin (Levaquin), sparfloxacin (Zagam), or gemifloxacin (Factive), moxifloxacin (Avelox)
High-dose amoxicillin or amoxicillin-clavulanate, plus a macrolide antibiotic (azithromycin, clarithromycin, or erythromycin)
Many people can be treated at home with antibiotics. If you have an underlying chronic disease, severe symptoms, or low oxygen levels, you will likely require hospitalization for intravenous antibiotics and oxygen therapy. Infants and the elderly are more commonly admitted for treatment of pneumonia.

You can take these steps at home:

Outlook / Prognosis of Bacterial Pneumonia

With treatment, most patients will improve within 2-weeks. Elderly or debilitated patients may need treatment for longer.

Your doctor will want to make sure your chest x-ray becomes normal again after you take a course of antibiotics.

Possible Complications of Bacterial Pneumonia

Empyema or lung abscesses are infrequent, but serious, complications of pneumonia. They occur when pockets of pus form around or inside the lung. These may sometimes require surgical drainage.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your doctor if you have the following symptoms:

Prevention of Bacterial Pneumonia

Vaccines can help prevent pneumonia in children, the elderly, and people with diabetes, asthma, emphysema, HIV, cancer, or other chronic conditions:

Taking deep breaths may help prevent pneumonia if you are in the hospital -- for example, while recovering from surgery. Often, a breathing device will be given to you to assist in deep breathing.

If you have cancer or HIV, you should talk to your doctor about additional ways to prevent pneumonia.