Last updated: May 5, 2012

Pneumonia Symptoms in adults

Pneumonia symptoms in adults: An overview

Pneumonia symptoms in adults depend upon the exact type of pneumonia. Although pneumonia is considered to be a single disease, it has several different causes. Pneumonia symptoms in adults with viral pneumonia may be different from the pneumonia symptoms in adults with bacterial pneumonia. Similarly, pneumonia symptoms in adults with fungal pneumonia may be different from pneumonia symptoms in adults with mycoplasma pneumonia. This kind of classification of pneumonia symptoms in adults based on the causative organism is called the classification based on etiology. It is very useful for planning the treatment of pneumonia as each type of pneumonia symptoms respond to particular type of treatment. But the classification of pneumonia symptoms in adults based only upon etiology does not help much in making the right diagnosis. Pneumonia symptoms in adults with pneumonia from different different etiologies can overlap significantly and it is not easy to make the diagnosis when patients are admitted to the hospital.

Pneumonia Symptoms: What is pneumonia?

To understand pneumonia symptoms, you need to understand what pneumonia is. Pneumonia is simply an infection of the lungs. Our throat connects our nose to the air pipe. The air pipe carries the air down into a pair of lungs. The air pipe then divides and goes inside the lungs. When they reach inside the lungs, they divide into smaller branches and ultimately connect to the tiny air sacs where the air exchange takes place.

Pneumonia is an infection that affects the deep pockets inside the lungs. If the infection is just limited to the upper parts of our air-pipes, it presents as cold or flu. If the infection is in the smaller branches of the air-pipes, it becomes bronchitis. When the infection gets all the way down to the air sacs, it becomes pneumonia. It is important to remember this fact as it will help you understand what pneumonia symptoms you can expect individual patients. As the infection is very deep inside the lungs, people can have difficulty coughing the bugs out like they do when they have just the flu or bronchitis. These bugs cause irritation in the small air-pipes and air sacs. The inflammation can activate our immune system and the body will produce pus like liquid in order to fight these bugs. This pus can settle down in the air-sacs and prevent exchange of oxygen in the lungs. That can cause low levels of oxygen in the blood. When our body’s oxygen level goes down, all our organ systems go into despair. Lack of oxygen in the brain can cause confusion, dizziness or drowsiness. The exact symptom of pneumonia in an individual patient depends on the unique circumstances of the patient. When you understand what pneumonia is and how it produces symptoms, you may be able to put together the unique symptoms of an individual patient and try to see if those symptoms could suggest pneumonia. Simply recalling list of the top 10 symptoms of pneumonia will not help you decide if someone may have pneumonia.

Pneumonia symptoms in adults: Hospital acquired vs community acquired

Pneumonia symptoms in adults also depend on where the patient was living when the diagnosis was made. Community acquired pneumonia and hospital acquired pneumonia are identified as two distinct categories of pneumonia. Pneumonia symptoms in adults already in the hospital may be very atypical. Sometimes the only symptoms of hospital acquired pneumonia in adults may be just the worsening of the symptoms of the original disease they were admitted to the hospital for. Hospital acquired pneumonia is considered more difficult to treat than community acquired pneumonia because they have organisms that are resistant to common treatment options. Pneumonia symptoms in adults that are living independently in the community are diagnosed as community acquired pneumonia. Community acquired pneumonia symptoms are mostly caused by bacteria and are treated with antibiotics that are selected based on usual guidelines for the treatment of pneumonia symptoms in adults.

Pneumonia symptoms in adults: the patient factors

Pneumonia symptoms in adults

Image courtesy of: National Kidney & Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC)

Pneumonia symptoms in adults also depend upon the age and overall health status of the patient. Elderly patients with history of multiple medical problems do not have the typical pneumonia symptoms. Many patients who are immobile and live in nursing home may have severe life threatening pneumonia but may not have any of the normal symptoms of pneumonia in adults. Young and otherwise healthy patients typically have many of the common pneumonia symptoms in adults but they do not usually seek medical attention as they normally contribute those symptoms to a possible flu.

Pneumonia symptoms in adults: the health factors

In a similar way, pneumonia symptoms in adults depend upon how other organs and overall health of the patient contribute to the development of pneumonia symptoms in that particular patient. That is why you have to really understand the circumstances under which the patient developed the pneumonia symptoms to clearly understand how pneumonia symptoms in adults present.

Real cases of pneumonia symptoms in adults based on actual patients of Doctor Sapkota

I have composed a series of articles based on my real patients who had pneumonia. When you read these stories and understand how pneumonia is diagnosed and treated in real life, you will have a clear idea about how pneumonia symptoms develop. Otherwise, just reading a list of pneumonia symptoms in adults in a textbook or a health website will not help you much as no two patients with pneumonia have the exact same anemia symptoms.

Thank you

Nabin Sapkota, MD