What Is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection in one or both of your lungs. It's caused by bacteria, a virus, or fungi. The infection causes the air sacs in your lungs to become inflamed and fill up with fluid or pus. That can make it hard for you to breathe and get enough oxygen into your bloodstream.

Symptoms of Pneumonia

Symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • Coughing, often with phlegm (sputum) that may be tinged with blood
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sharp chest pain that gets worse with deep breathing or coughing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion, especially in older adults

Causes of Pneumonia

Pneumonia is usually caused by a virus, bacterial infection, or fungus. It’s spread in different ways, including:

  • Inhaling droplets from a cough or sneeze from an infected person.
  • Touching your mouth, nose, or eyes after coming into contact with respiratory fluids from an infected person.
  • Inhaling a liquid or gas or breathing in dust particles containing the germ.

Diagnosis of Pneumonia

Your doctor will ask about your medical history and examine you, including listening to your lungs with a stethoscope to check for abnormal bubbling or clicking sounds. You may have tests to confirm the diagnosis. These may include:

  • Chest X-ray or CT scan to check for signs of infection in your lungs.
  • Sputum (phlegm) test to look for signs of bacteria, fungus, or virus in your lungs.
  • Blood tests, an electrocardiogram (ECG), or both to look for an infection in your bloodstream.

Treatment of Pneumonia

Treatment for pneumonia depends on the cause. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial pneumonia. Antiviral drugs are used to treat viral pneumonia. Treatment may involve one or more of the following, depending on the cause of the pneumonia:

  • Antibiotics to kill bacteria and other germs
  • Antiviral medicines to treat viral pneumonia
  • Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
  • Bronchodilator medications to open your airways
  • Oxygen therapy to help increase the oxygen levels in your blood
  • Fluids to help loosen secretions and reduce your risk of dehydration
  • Cough medications to suppress your cough