Bacterial Pneumonia: Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Investigations, Treatment
Bacterial pneumonia is a medical condition where there is infection in one or both of the lungs. There is inflammation of the alveoli of the lungs where they become filled with fluid, pus and cellular waste resulting in impaired ability in exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body. Symptoms of bacterial pneumonia include shortness of breath, pain when taking a breath and chest pain. Bacterial pneumonia, if left untreated, can lead to respiratory failure and death. The severity of the infection depends on the bacterium, patient's health, age and immunity. Antibiotics are the main line of treatment.
Causes of Bacterial Pneumonia
- The most common cause of bacterial pneumonia is a Gram-positive bacterium, Streptococcus Pneumoniae. Other major gram-positive bacteria which cause pneumonia include staphylococcus aureus and bacillus anthracis.
- Gram-negative bacteria is the less common cause of bacterial pneumonia; some of which include: Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Haemophilus influenzae, Escherichia coli, Moraxella catarrhalis and Bordetella pertussis.
- Community acquired pneumonia are those cases which spread by respiratory droplets via sneezing and coughing.
- Hospital acquired pneumonia is contracted from exposure to hospitals or other healthcare settings. HAP is more difficult to treat than community acquired pneumonia as the bacteria are resistant to antibiotics.
Signs and Symptoms of Bacterial Pneumonia
- Chest pain which can worsen upon breathing and coughing.
- Pain may also be felt upon touching the chest.
- Cough is present.
- There may be coughing up of blood or blood tinged mucus.
- Runny nose.
- Patient may experience body pains, headache and abdominal pain.
- Shortness of breath
- Shaking chills.
Investigations for Bacterial Pneumonia
- Physical exam where the doctor listens to the patient's chest using a stethoscope for abnormal chest sounds such as rales, wheezing etc.
- Complete blood picture.
- Pulse Oximetry to test the oxygen levels in the blood.
- Chest x-ray.
- Arterial blood gas (ABG).
- Sputum culture.
Treatment for Bacterial Pneumonia
- Antibiotics are the main line of treatment for bacterial pneumonia. The type of antibiotic used depends on the causative bacterium, geographical region, health and immune status of the patient. Some of the antibiotics commonly used are amoxicillin, clarithromycin, azithromycin and fluoroquinolones.
- Erythromycin is used for those patients who are allergic to penicillin.
- Ventilation or oxygen supplement is also given as supportive therapy.
- Oxygen supplementation is given for aged patients and those who have extreme difficulty in breathing.
- Cough syrups are also given.
- Medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen are given for fever and body pains.
- Patient should take plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids.
- Patient should use humidifiers to keep the air moist.
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