Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. Pneumonia in elderly adults is one of the major causes of death in the United States. It often arises after a complication of influenza. As a matter of fact, it was the leading cause of death in the U.S over two centuries ago.
Over four million people get pneumonia each year in the U.S., and if you are over 65, you are at a higher risk of getting pneumonia.
Pneumonia is the 8th leading cause of death in the United States, with an average of 55,227 succumbing to the disease. Nearly half of pneumonia cases are listed as viral pneumonia, which is a milder form of the illness.
Causes of Pneumonia
Germs such as bacteria, viruses, and occasionally fungi are what usually cause pneumonia in elderly adults. The elderly are more susceptible because of their weakened immune systems. This makes the germs even stronger, and their bodies filter out fewer germs that are floating around in the air each day.
Infection causes inflammation in the lung’s air sacs, and they become filled with pus and mucus. This prevents oxygen from reaching the blood stream, and stops a person from getting enough air to breathe.
Types of Pneumonia
Community Acquired Pneumonia in the Elderly – Community acquired pneumonia is a type of pneumonia picked up outside of nursing homes and hospitals. This is known as the most common type of pneumonia in elderly adults. Also known as C.A.P., a quarter of community acquired pneumonia patients need to be hospitalized. Most cases happen in the wintertime, and it is usually acquired by breathing germs in through the nose, mouth and throat.
Health Care Associated Pneumonia – Pneumonia in elderly people also increases when they are in the confined spaces of nursing homes, and other outpatient facilities.
Hospital Acquired Pneumonia – Most people believe that hospitals are very sterile environments, but the reality is, there are a lot of sick people there, and there are more germs. Also, if you are sick, your resistance is lowered, and you are a candidate for opportunistic infections.
There are also super germs found in hospitals that are resistant to more types of antibiotics.
Other Types of Pneumonia
Aspiration pneumonia develops when people inhale food particles, vomit or other liquids through their mouths and it reaches their lungs. This happens more with seniors and younger infants. Some of the elderly have problems with swallowing, or might be impaired in some other way, which increases the likelihood of aspiration pneumonia.
There are also atypical types of pneumonia, such as Legionella pneumophilla, Chlamydophila pneumoniae, and others.
Symptoms of Pneumonia in Adults
Pneumonia symptoms in adults might not appear to be very serious, and often resemble symptoms of a cold or flu. Therefore, when many adults finally get it diagnosed by a doctor, it’s usually more severe and requires immediate medical treatment and assistance.
However, some of the first signs of pneumonia in elderly adults include:
- Extreme difficulty in breathing
- Forgetfulness and confusion
- High fever and chills
- Green or yellow phlegm
- Chest Pain
How to Successfully Treat Pneumonia
Pneumonia that is caused by bacteria can usually be treated with prescribed antibiotics. The type of antibiotic that is given will depend on how severe the pneumonia is, and the patient, who is receiving the medication.
Doctors will usually give you antibiotics at the first signs of pneumonia. If you are hospitalized, you will be given antibiotics through an IV, along with other fluids. If you are prescribed antibiotics at home, you need to make sure that you don’t miss any scheduled dosage.
Fungal pneumonia is rare, but it can usually be treated with antibiotics, too.
Doctors give antiviral medicine for viral pneumonia, because antibiotics have no effect on a viral illness.
There are some, who claim that pneumonia can just as easily be treated with natural or home remedies. However, you should understand that pneumonia in elderly people can become quickly life threatening, and you should only use natural medicine at the recommendation of a physician. Occasionally, natural medicine can be used in conjunction with prescribed medicine, but it can sometimes interfere with the effects of medicine given by your doctor.
If you are experiencing some of the above symptoms, you should immediately get in contact with your physician. Remember that pneumonia in the elderly can usually be treated with proper medication and rest, but you need to get treated quickly.
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