Pneumonia Facts (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
In this Article
- Pneumonia facts
- What is pneumonia?
- What are the different types of pneumonia?
- What causes pneumonia? Is pneumonia contagious?
- What are risk factors for pneumonia?
- What are pneumonia symptoms and signs?
- How do doctors diagnose pneumonia?
- What is the treatment for pneumonia?
- What are complications of pneumonia?
- What is the prognosis of pneumonia?
- Is it possible to prevent pneumonia? Is there a pneumonia vaccine?
- Pneumonia FAQs
- Find a local Internist in your town
What are pneumonia symptoms and signs?
Symptoms and signs of pneumonia may be mild or severe and depend upon someone's overall state of health as well as the type of organism causing the pneumonia. Severe symptoms include
- chest pain when breathing or coughing,
- labored breathing or shortness of breath,
- coughing up phlegm,
Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are other possible symptoms that can accompany the respiratory symptoms.
Infants and newborns may not show specific symptoms of pneumonia. Instead, they may appear restless or lethargic. They may have a fever or cough or vomit. Older adults or those who have weak immune systems may also have fewer symptoms and a lower temperature. A change in mental status, such as confusion, can develop in older adults with pneumonia.
How do doctors diagnose pneumonia?
The diagnosis of pneumonia always begins with taking a medical history and performing a physical examination to look for characteristic signs. In particular, listening to the lungs may reveal areas where sound is diminished, wheezing, or crackling sounds in affected areas. Some commonly performed diagnostic tests are as follows:
- A chest X-ray is able to illustrate whether or not pneumonia is present, but it does not provide information about the organism responsible for the infection.
- In some cases, a chest CT scan may be performed. This will reveal more detail than the chest X-ray.
- Pulse oximetry measures the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream. The test involves a painless sensor attached to the finger or ear. Blood levels of oxygen may be reduced in pneumonia.
- Microbiology tests to identify the causative organism. Tests may be performed on blood or sputum. Rapid urine tests are available to identify Streptococcus pneumoniae and Legionella pneumophila. Cultures of blood or sputum not only identify the responsible organism but can also be examined to determine which antibiotics are effective against a particular bacterial strain.
- Bronchoscopy is a procedure in which a thin, lighted tube is inserted into the trachea and major airways. This allows the doctor to visualize the inside of the airways and take tissue samples if needed. Bronchoscopy may be performed in patients with severe pneumonia or if pneumonia worsens despite antibiotic treatment.
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