Pneumonia is an infection that causes lung inflammation and affects the respiratory system. Acute pneumonia is a short-term infection of the lungs. In most cases, the symptoms of acute pneumonia will come on suddenly. Many people acquire the lung infection from being in the hospital and this is type of pneumonia is noted as being hospital-acquired. People who get pneumonia who have not recently been hospitalized are said to have community-acquired pneumonia, which is the most common way the infection is transmitted.
The causes of pneumonia can vary. Pneumonia may be caused by a virus, bacteria, some type of parasite or a fungus. Most commonly, the infection is caused by a virus, such as the flu or more so by a bacteria known as streptococcus pneumoniae. Generally, it is the inhalation of bacteria into the lungs which causes the onset of pneumonia. The bacteria will typically makes its way to the lungs via entry through the eyes, nose and mouth.
People with acute pneumonia usually have symptoms that appear very quickly. A heavy cough, which may be accompanied by a thick mucus is a very common symptom. Most people will also have a fever, which may become quite elevated. Some individuals with pneumonia will feel fatigued, have body aches, a loss of appetite and suffer from chills and sweating. Pleurisy, which is inflammation of lung tissue frequently resulting in chest pain upon taking a breath, can be another symptom.
A doctor will generally perform a complete medical examination on a person suspected to have acute pneumonia. He or she will pay special attention to the sound of the patient's lungs by listening with a stethoscope. Blood tests may also be given to examine the patient's white blood cells, which may indicate the level of infection present. Generally, a chest x-ray, one of the most generic diagnostic tools used to test for pneumonia, will also be performed. The test will be done to visually analyze the amount of infection in the lungs.
Antibiotics may be used to treat a case of acute pneumonia. Sometimes, hospitalization will be necessary to treat the infection. This will commonly be the case if a person is elderly, has an existing health condition or is experiencing very complicated symptoms, such as extreme weakness, trouble breathing, dehydration or a very high temperature. These patients may receive intravenous medications and breathing treatments if needed. Most people will recover from an acute or short-term case of pneumonia after completing the prescribed course of treatment and some may need follow-up for a period following treatment to ensure that the infection is fully resolved.