Early diagnosis is important to treat pneumonia

August 11, 2003|by Christine L. Moats

Pneumonia encompasses many different diseases that involve infection or inflammation of the lungs. According to Cheryl Stouffer, pneumonia care specialist at Washington County Hospital, there are three basic kinds of pneumonia: lobar, bronchial and interstitial.

Lobar pneumonia is an infection of a large portion or an entire lobe of the lung. It occurs in otherwise healthy adults and is less common in infants and the elderly. Approximately 90 to 95 percent of the time, it is caused by streptococcal bacteria. Symptoms come on suddenly and include severe shaking, chills, high fever and fatigue. Individuals also may experience chest pressure, congestion and pain while inhaling. The term "double pneumonia" refers to an infection in both sides of the lung.

Bronchial pneumonia is an infection primarily in the lower and back portions of the lung. This type of pneumonia occurs in the very young when the breathing defense systems are not yet developed, in the elderly, and in others that have conditions which increase the risk for infection or have a decline in their breathing defense system. Symptoms such as a low-grade fever and a nonproductive cough appear more gradually.


Interstitial pneumonia is an infection in the tiniest tubes and air sacs in the lungs.

Viruses or the even smaller mycoplasms generally cause it. This type of pneumonia occurs in children and young adults.

The flu virus is the most common cause, Stouffer said. But it can also occur as a complication of chickenpox or measles.

Symptoms begin and feel like a chest cold, then a fever, headache and muscle aches develop. The term "walking pneumonia" usually refers to these atypical pneumonias. Symptoms often are not severe, and the person does not have to be confined to the hospital for treatment.

If you have symptoms of pneumonia, call your doctor immediately. Although pneumonia can be treated, it is an extremely serious illness. Early diagnosis and treatment is vital.

- Sources: The American Lung Association Web site at and "Pathophysiology: Concepts of Altered Health States," by Carol Matterson Porth, J.B. Lippencott Co.

Christine L. Moats is a wellness coordinator at Washington County Hospital.

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