A Brief Description of Pneumonia and Pneumonia Symptoms
DISCLAIMER: CONSULT WITH A DOCTOR BEFORE DECIDING ON A TREATMENT PLAN FOR ANY DISEASE OR INJURY.
Pneumonia is a type of lung disease caused by an infection. The infection leads to inflammation of the alveoli of the lungs, which may eventually fill with pus or fluid. There are different kinds of infection that can cause pneumonia, including bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infections. In some cases, a person may develop pneumonia in the absence of an infection. While all of these types of pneumonia share similar symptoms, they each have some slightly different treatment options to consider (though there are some treatments that would be effective regardless of the type of pneumonia that a person has).
The symptoms of pneumonia (regardless of the pneumonia’s origin) may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Fever (this may be accompanied by sweating, chills, and/or shaking)
- Shallow, rapid breathing
- Persistent cough (the person usually coughs up green, yellow, or bloody mucus)
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Chest pain that worsens when you cough
- Confusion (this is more common in elderly people)
Individuals who already have specific diseases or health problems are more likely to develop pneumonia than other people. For example, individuals who are immunodeficient or who have COPD, asthma, chronic kidney disease, or liver disease are at an increased risk. Smokers and alcoholics, as well as the elderly and very young children, are also somewhat more likely to develop pneumonia.
Types of Pneumonia
There are a few different kinds of pneumonia, and it’s worth considering these different types before looking at pneumonia treatments. Viral and bacterial pneumonia are the most common types, though mycoplasma (fungal) and parasitic pneumonia can also occur. Non-infectious pneumonia is the final type, in which case an actual infection hasn’t been diagnosed. I’ll look at each of these kinds of pneumonia more closely below:
In approximately 50% of bacterial pneumonia cases, the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria is the main culprit. Other bacteria often found responsible for bacterial pneumonia may include:
- Haemophilus influenzae
- Chlamydophila pneumoniae
- Mycoplasma pneumoniae
While there are some other bacteria that can also cause bacterial pneumonia, too, these bacteria are the most common. Patients who already have certain lung diseases, such as cystic fibrosis or tuberculosis, may be more susceptible to developing bacterial pneumonia.
NOTE: Though not true in all cases, there are times when a person may develop both bacterial and viral pneumonia at the same time. The treatments that I’ll talk about later for these two types of pneumonia are more or less the same (unless otherwise stated), so it’s not essential to know whether or not this is true for you, but it’s still worth mentioning.
Legionnaires Disease is a specific, serious kind of bacterial pneumonia caused by the Legionella pneumophila bacteria. The same kind of bacteria can also cause Pontiac Fever. The L. pneumophila bacteria is spread through inhalation of tiny water droplets in the air, generally in areas with natural freshwater. It’s uncommon for it to be spread from person to person, though not impossible. The symptoms of Legionnaires Disease are more or less the same as any other case of bacterial pneumonia, though muscle aches, headaches, and overall more severe symptoms may occur.
Viral pneumonia is one of the most common types of pneumonia and accounts for approximately one-third of all pneumonia cases. There’s a long list of viruses that may be implicated in the development of viral pneumonia, including (but not limited to):
- Coronaviruses (including SARS, MERS, and COVID-19)
- Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
- And more…
Fungal pneumonia is overall an uncommon type of pneumonia to develop, but people with weakened immune systems or who live in particular areas of the world (such as the Southwest US and the Mississippi River Basin and similar areas) may be at a higher risk.
Some common kinds of fungal pneumonia include:
- Histoplasma capsulatum (AKA histoplasmosis; more common in Ohio and the Mississippi River Valley)
- Coccidioides immitis (coccidiomyocosis; otherwise known as Valley Fever, common in Southern California and the desert regions of the Southwest US)
- Pneumocystis pneumonia (caused by the Pneumocystis jirovecii fungus)
- Blastomyces fungi
- Cryptococcus neoformans
Parasitic pneumonia is probably one of the least common types of pneumonia, but it’s an important one to mention since parasite infections can linger in the body for years if left untreated, leading to various health problems that can even be misdiagnosed as “incurable” diseases. In most parasite-cause pneumonia cases, the parasitic infection affects another area of the body first, and only affects the lungs second. These parasitic infections are generally spread through skin contact, ingestion (drinking water or food), or via an insect (like a mosquito), and are more common among immigrants, travelers, and the immunocompromised.
Here are some more common types of parasitic pneumonia:
- Toxoplasma gondii (toxoplasmosis)
- Ascaris lumbricoides (roundworm infection)
- Plasmodium malariae (this is the malaria parasite)
- Paragonimus westermani (this type of parasite can affect the lungs primarily, and is known as the Japanese/oriental lung fluke)
Non-infectious pneumonia, otherwise known as idiopathic interstitial pneumonia, can be classified into 8 different categories:
- Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (which I discuss in-depth in this article)
- Desquamative pulmonary fibrosis
- Nonspecific interstitial pneumonia
- Cryptogenic organizing pneumonia
- Idiopathic pleuroparenchymal fibroelastosis
- Lymphocytic interstitial pneumonia
- Acute interstitial pneumonia
- Respiratory bronchiolitis-associated interstitial lung disease (RBLID)
Some cases of idiopathic interstitial pneumonia (IIP) may have their root cause in the inhalation of toxic materials, like asbestos, while other cases (most cases) are considered to occur due to “unknown causes”. Based on other lung diseases that are said to have “unknown causes” (like idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, for example), I believe that IIP cases that aren’t caused by inhalation of toxins are likely due to one of the reasons below (or a combination of them):
- An underlying, dormant infection present in the lungs underneath biofilm – While this infection may not show up on tests, the body will still react to its presence, which can cause symptoms that may present like pneumonia but that appear to have no known cause (since a small colony of infectious pathogens isn’t likely to be able to be tested for successfully).
- Nutritional deficiencies – When the body is deficient in one or more nutrients, this can cause all kinds of health problems, including those that look like pneumonia (or other lung diseases). Different people may manifest deficiencies in different ways depending on their personal diet, the drugs/medications they take, and other factors. Nutrition is always a factor I consider when a disease has an “unknown” cause since many of these diseases can often be traced back to a nutritional deficiency.
- Toxic overload – Some people are more sensitive to toxic substances than other people, and may react by developing the symptoms of pneumonia. Toxins are present everywhere (in food, the air, water, etc.) and being able to detoxify your body from these toxins is important in order to support recovery from any illness, including idiopathic interstitial pneumonia. I discuss this in more detail in this article on sarcoidosis.
Wikipedia (2022). Pneumonia. Retrieved May 5, 2022 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pneumonia
CDC (2022). Pneumonia. Retrieved May 5, 2022 from: https://www.cdc.gov/pneumonia/index.html
Lee, Joyce (2021). Overview of Idiopathic Interstitial Pneumonias. Retrieved May 5, 2022 from: https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/pulmonary-disorders/interstitial-lung-diseases/overview-of-idiopathic-interstitial-pneumonias
Xing, Yang, et. al. (2020). Vitamin A deficiency is associated with severe Mycoplasma pneumoniae pneumonia in children. Retrieved May 7, 2022 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7049042/
Francis, Raymond (2018). Vitamin C Deficiency and Pneumonia. Retrieved May 7, 2022 from: https://raymondfrancisauthor.com/vitamin-c-deficiency-and-pneumonia/