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What are the Effects of Pneumonia on the Lungs?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The effects of pneumonia on the lungs involve overproduction of mucus and other fluids, leading to difficulty breathing and inhibiting gas exchange in the lungs, making it harder to supply the body with oxygen. In the long term, pneumonia can be associated with permanent lung damage, putting people at risk of respiratory failure in the future because their lungs are no longer as strong and healthy as they once were. Treating pneumonia early can help limit permanent lung problems.

In patients with pneumonia, an infection becomes active in the lungs. Fungi, bacteria, viruses, and other organisms can all potentially colonize the lungs if someone's immune system is unable to fight them off. The infection causes the small air sacs in the lungs, known as alveoli, to fill with fluid. It becomes harder to inflate the lungs because the pressure inside the lung is disrupted, people have difficulty breathing, and the oxygen with each breath doesn't reach as far as it should.

The effects of pneumonia on the lungs can lead people to have shortness of breath, a bluish tinge in the extremities, and rapid breathing as they fight for air. Patients may also cough, often producing sputum. In some cases, pneumonia leads to the development of an abscess in the lungs, a potentially serious complication. Patients can also go into respiratory failure, where the lungs are no longer able to function and mechanical ventilation may be required to keep the person alive.

In lobar pneumonia, an entire lobe of a lung is involved. Bronchial pneumonia involves isolated patches of infection in one or both lungs. In either case, the effects of pneumonia on the lungs can onset rapidly once the infection starts raging. Patients usually experience warning signs like fever, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting, along with the difficulty breathing. Listening to the lungs can reveal distinctive sounds associated with the fluid-filled alveoli and the patient's labored breathing.

To counter the effects of pneumonia on the lungs, doctors focus on finding an appropriate medication to treat the infection, as well as providing supportive care. Patients may need to be hospitalized if the infection is severe, and in some cases ventilation is required to help patients breathe. Left untreated, infections in the lungs can become fatal for the patient, as eventually, tissues in the body will start to suffer as a result of oxygen deprivation. When the supply of oxygen to the brain is limited by pneumonia, the patient can develop seizures and fall into a coma.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon994039 — On Jan 08, 2016

I had pneumonia end of July very badly (two of three lobes right lung), and was on an antibiotic for 40 days. Most of mine was not chest pain but in the side and back. My back is still sensitive to this day and recently when I got a mild cold my back seemed to be wheezing (I have asthma too but it was a normal chest wheeze) but my back. Could this still be long term effects of the pneumonia? Would I have scar tissue?

By anon940559 — On Mar 19, 2014

Since I have recovered from pneumonia, I have a shortage of oxygen. What should I do?

By anon340056 — On Jun 29, 2013

I would like to ask a question. Pneumonia results in the alveoli being filled with mucus. Does this reduces the surface area for gaseous exchange, thus affecting the intake of oxygen? Also in your article, it is written that pressure inside the lung is disrupted. I would like to know how is the pressure disrupted as I am quite confused with this sentence.

By anon315730 — On Jan 25, 2013

It hurts your lungs super bad.

By julies — On Aug 16, 2012

Is there a connection between pneumonia and lung cancer? I have an aunt who has had a history of several bouts of pneumonia during her lifetime, and has recently been diagnosed with lung cancer.

It makes me wonder how much her lungs were affected when she had the pneumonia, and if it also played a part in her lung cancer diagnosis.

By Mykol — On Aug 15, 2012

I think pneumonia really does weaken the lungs. The first time I had pneumonia I probably waited too long before I started on antibiotics. The first medication they gave me didn't clear it up, and I had to start on something else.

Ever since then, I have noticed that I get respiratory infections a lot easier. I also get a cough that seems to stick with me most of the winter. I never had these problems until I got pneumonia.

By golf07 — On Aug 14, 2012

Pneumonia is something that you don't want to mess around with. Once I had a respiratory infection that turned into pneumonia and I ended up in the hospital.

This was pretty scary as I really had a hard time catching my breath and had no idea that I had pneumonia. One of the best things you can do when you have pneumonia, in addition to taking medication, is to get a lot of rest.

I really didn't have the strength or energy to do anything, so this wasn't hard to do. I think a lot of people try to do too much too soon, and the pneumonia can come back a second time.

By LisaLou — On Aug 14, 2012

I knew that pneumonia had some kind of effect on the lungs, but didn't realize it could be this serious. My husband has had pneumonia at least three times.

His doctor told him once a person gets pneumonia the first time, they are more likely to get it again. Now he recognizes the pneumonia symptoms early, and doesn't hesitate to get to the doctor and get started on antibiotics.

Thankfully this has never been severe enough that he has had to be hospitalized, but the sooner he starts treating it, the faster his recovery time is.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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