What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a lung infection that can happen in one or both of your lungs. When you have pneumonia, fluid forms in the tiny air sacs that normally help your lungs exchange gases. This fluid makes it hard for you to breathe and can also cause other symptoms.

Different germs can cause pneumonia. The most common are bacteria and viruses, but you can also get pneumonia from fungi or breathing materials that irritate your lungs.

You may be at a higher risk for developing pneumonia if you:

  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Abuse alcohol
  • Have a weakened immune system or are taking immunosuppressant drugs
  • Are bedridden
  • Have had surgery recently
  • Already have another respiratory illness (such as asthma)

These factors can weaken your lungs and leave them vulnerable to infection.

Symptoms of pneumonia

Symptoms can vary depending on what caused your pneumonia and how healthy you were before you got pneumonia. Common pneumonia symptoms include:

  • Coughing up green, yellow or bloody mucus
  • Feeling short of breath, especially after physical activity
  • Having a fever and chills
  • Feeling extremely tired
  • Having a sharp pain in your chest when coughing or breathing deeply
  • Sweating
  • Breathing quickly
  • Having a faster pulse than normal
  • Feeling confused or disoriented

If a virus caused your pneumonia, you may also notice:

  • Headache
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Weakness

Sometimes, pneumonia symptoms can be mild. This is commonly called walking pneumonia. If you have symptoms of pneumonia, even if they're mild, talk to your doctor. Without treatment, pneumonia can cause serious lung problems.

Diagnosis and testing for pneumonia

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and do a physical exam. You may also need other tests, like blood tests, imaging tests or tests that check your mucus in a lab, to confirm that pneumonia is what's causing your symptoms.

Pneumonia treatment options

Treatment depends on what caused your pneumonia. Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics. Viral pneumonia usually goes away on its own.

Treatment can include medicines to relieve pain, lower your fever or control your cough. You may also need extra fluids, rest and/or oxygen therapy. To treat severe pneumonia, you may need to go to the hospital.


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