Bacterial pneumonia can strike at any stage, right from infancy to old age. Those with weakened immune systems like post operative patients, people already suffering from respiratory ailments or viral infections and alcoholics are more prone to catching this disease.
Traces of Pneumonia bacteria could also be present in some healthy throats. When body defenses are lowered in some way, by illness, advanced age, malnutrition, general debility or impaired immunity, the bacteria can thrive and cause grave harm. Usually, when a person's resistance is reduced, bacteria work their way into the lungs and inflame the air sacs. These air sacs called alveoli then get filled with fluid and are unable to effectively transfer oxygen into the blood and eliminate carbon dioxide from it. In this way, gradually the entire lung gets infected and the infection spreads to the whole body through the bloodstream.
The streptococcus pneumonia or pneumococcal is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia. It is also one of the most common infections occurring in children, causing meningitis, infections of the bloodstream and pneumonia in children especially under five years of age. Haemophilius influenza, Chlamydia trachomatis, Mycoplasma pneumonia and Legionella pneumophila are the other major bacteria that cause pneumonia. Vaccines providing immunity from bacterial pneumonia are now readily available.
Bacterial pneumonia develops when bacteria usually living harmlessly in the throat enter the lungs. This usually happens when the body's immune system is weakened for some reason like an upper respiratory infection, or influenza. The already weakened lungs allow the bacteria to spread the infection, filling the alveoli (tiny air sacs present in the lungs with fluid). This in turn affects the elasticity of the lungs and their efficiency to bring about the exchange of gases is greatly hampered. The lungs are unable to satisfy the body’s oxygen requirements and hence cause shortness of breath which is the most common symptom of pneumonia. The inflammation also causes other symptoms like chest pain and fever.
Pneumonia can turn very serious, because it directly interferes with your body's ability to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen. Pneumonia differs in this way from acute bronchitis, which is another disease that can cause fever, cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Bronchitis is caused by a swelling of the air passages (bronchi) leading to the alveoli, not the alveoli themselves. Sometimes it is very difficult, even for a doctor, to distinguish between pneumonia and bronchitis. Their symptoms and can often be identical. In most cases a chest x-ray is the only way to tell the two apart.
The most common way to catch pneumonia is to inhale infected air droplets from an infected individual. A poorly cleaned air conditioner could also be a cause of pneumonia. An infection in another part of the body could also render the immunity to be lowered and lower the resistance of the lungs to fight the infection. The risk factor is also determined by the intensity of exposure to the bacteria, the type of bacteria and the general immunity of the body. You will not contract pneumonia by being out in the cold or by getting wet in the rain.
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