advertisement



Health Centers


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Pneumonia

x ray

What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection of the tiny air sacs of the lungs. There are many different types of pneumonia, which can range from mild to severe. Depending on its cause, pneumonia can be fatal, and it remains a common cause of death worldwide.

What are the symptoms of pneumonia?
The symptoms depend on the particular type of pneumonia. Some kinds of pneumonia don't cause symptoms at all. In general, symptoms tend to mimic those of a cold or the flu and can include:

  • Cough, often accompanied by green, yellow, or sometimes bloody (rust colored) phlegm
  • Fever and chills
  • Sharp chest pain that gets worse with deep breathing or coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion (especially in the elderly)

What are the causes?
Pneumonia occurs when bacteria, a virus, or other organisms are inhaled into one or both lungs. Infection can also occur following an infection in the bloodstream, or after trauma or surgery in or near the lungs. When the immune system tries to fight these organisms, the lungs' air sacs become inflamed and filled with fluid. Pneumonia has several different causes, such as:

  • Bacteria
  • Mycoplasma (a type of bacteria that lacks cellular walls, and is unaffected by many common antibiotics)
  • Viruses
  • Fungi
  • Secondary infections in people with AIDS
  • Aspiration of liquid or other substances into the lungs

Who is likely to develop pneumonia?
Pneumonia can occur in people of all ages, but it is most common in young children and people older than age 65. The following factors can increase the risk of developing pneumonia:

  • Chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes
  • Lowered immunity, caused by HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy, or certain drugs
  • Being bedridden, unconscious for long periods, or paralyzed.
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Use of a breathing tube or ventilator while hospitalized
  • Exposure to certain pollutants or agricultural chemicals
  • Trouble swallowing (such as after a stroke), which can cause the person to aspirate food, liquid, or saliva into the lungs

How is pneumonia diagnosed?
Physicians may suspect pneumonia if they hear crackling and wheezing sounds when listening to a patient's lungs with a stethoscope. A chest x-ray can usually confirm the presence of fluid in the lungs that indicates pneumonia. Sometimes, the physician may order additional tests, including blood tests and cultures of lung fluid or sputum.

What is the conventional treatment ?
Conventional treatment for pneumonia depends on the causative agent and the condition of the patient. For bacterial pneumonia, the physician will likely prescribe antibiotics. These medications won't help for viral pneumonia which typically calls for treatment similar to that for the flu - plenty of rest and fluids - although antiviral medications can sometimes help. Bacterial infections often follow these viral infections, however, so antibiotics may be given to prevent the pneumonia from progressing. Over-the-counter drugs can help ease pain and relieve fever. Severe pneumonia requires treatment with intravenous medications such as antibiotics, and with supplemental oxygen. Occasionally patient will need to be placed on a mechanical ventilator to maintain lung function while the infection is cleared. Physicians may recommend the pneumococcal vaccine to help prevent pneumonia in people at high risk for it.

What therapies does Dr. Weil recommend for pneumonia?
If you are diagnosed with pneumonia, keep in mind that aggressive, conventional treatment may be required. The condition can progress quickly, and be life-threatening: pneumonia is major cause of death worldwide and the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.

If you do end up taking antibiotics for pneumonia or any other bacterial infection, make sure to support gastrointestinal health by taking probiotics at the same time.

The best way to lower the risk of contracting an infection that can lead to pneumonia is to not smoke. Adopting lifestyle habits that promote and maintain general health, including a robust immune system, through an anti-inflammatory diet, regular exercise and practicing stress reduction is also effective for prevention.

Dr. Weil also recommends that people over 65 years old get a vaccine against pneumococcal bacteria. These organisms can cause pneumonia when they enter the lungs, as well as systemic blood infections (called bacteremia), and meningitis. The pneumococcal vaccine protects against the most common pneumonococcal bacteria that cause ear and throat infections. Although it is sometimes termed the "pneumonia vaccine," it does not protect against pneumonia caused by other germs, including viruses, other types of bacteria, and fungi.

Pneumonococcal pneumonia is more serious than viral pneumonia and is a common cause of hospitalization and death in older people. According to the National Institute on Aging about 20 to 30 percent of people over 65 who have pneumonococcal pneumonia develop bacteremia and about 20 percent of those patients die despite treatment with antibiotics. He also recommends it for anyone with chronic illness such as heart disease, emphysema and asthma or diabetes and for anyone with a weakened immune system. Fortunately, most people need to get only one shot. There is some medical thought that it is best to get the vaccine before age 65 (anytime after age 50) since the positive reaction from your immune system may be better if you get the vaccine when you're younger.

If you get the vaccination, you might experience some minor side effects - typically, swelling and soreness at the injection site. Less than one percent of those who get the shot develop fever and muscle pain or unusual swelling and pain at the site of the injection.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here