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Pneumonia is a disease of the lungs and the respiratory system. The lung contains many small bulbs, or sacs, called alveoli. These help to take out oxygen from the air. In the case of pneumonia, these bulbs become inflamed. They fill up with a fluid, and can no longer absorb as much oxygen as before.
Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. It can also be caused by chemical or physical damage done to the lungs. Other illnesses, like alcohol abuse or lung cancer, can also result in pneumonia.
People with pneumonia usually have difficulty breathing. They may also cough, or have pains in the chest area. The treatment of pneumonia depends on how the illness was caused. If it was caused by bacteria, antibiotics can be used to treat it.
People of all ages can have pneumonia. The disease is dangerous. Many people die from pneumonia, especially old people, or people with a weak immune system.
Other types of pneumonia
- SARS is a highly contagious and deadly type of pneumonia which first occurred in 2002 after initial outbreaks in China. SARS is caused by the SARS coronavirus, a previously unknown pathogen. New cases of SARS have not been seen since June 2003.
- Bronchiolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia (BOOP)
- BOOP is caused by inflammation of the small airways of the lungs. It is also known as cryptogenic organizing pneumonitis (COP).
- Eosinophilic pneumonia
- Eosinophilic pneumonia is invasion of the lung by eosinophils. Eosinophils are a particular kind of white blood cells. Eosinophilic pneumonia often occurs in response to infection with a parasite or after exposure to certain types of environmental factors.
- Chemical pneumonia
- Chemical pneumonia (usually called chemical pneumonitis) is caused by chemical toxins such as pesticides, which may enter the body by inhalation or by skin contact. When the toxic substance is an oil, the pneumonia may be called lipoid pneumonia.
- Aspiration pneumonia
- Aspiration pneumonia (or aspiration pneumonitis) is caused by getting oral or gastric contents into the lungs, either while eating, or after reflux or vomiting. The resulting lung inflammation is not an infection but can contribute to one, since the material aspirated may contain bacteria. Aspiration is a leading cause of death among hospital and nursing home patients, since they often cannot adequately protect their airways and may have otherwise impaired defense
- Merck Manual: Pneumonia
- Merck Manual of Geriatrics: Pneumonia in the elderly
- British Lung Foundation