Bacterial pneumonia: Causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Bacterial pneumonia is lung infection by bacteria. Many types of bacteria could cause bacterial pneumonia. The main symptoms of bacterial pneumonia include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Bacterial pneumonia can be effectively treated by antibiotics.

Causes

As mentioned above, bacterial pneumonia is caused by various bacteria. Common bacteria include staphylococcus aureus (staph), streptococcus pneumoniae (strep), klebsiella pneumoniae, pseudomonas aeruginosa, etc.

Most of these bacteria are inhaled into your lungs. In healthy individuals with a competent immune function, most of these bacteria can be removed by your immune system. When your immunity is weak, such as in the old or those with a pre-existing lung conditions (COPD for example) or those with diabetes, these microorganism may cause lung infection and thus pneumonia. This is called community-acquired pneumonia (CAP), which means you get the pneumonia outside hospitals or nursing facilities. By comparison, the cause for hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) is quite different. In most patients with HAP, the cause is the use of ventilators or infected by other patients with pneumonia or contact with objects that has been contaminated with germs. Generally, HAP is much more difficult to treat than CAP, because the bacteria in the hospital are more likely to be resistant to many antibiotics.

Symptoms

  • Fevers and chills. The fever would also cause nausea, lack of energy, rapid heartbeat and headache.
  • Cough with or without chest pain. There could also be sputum associated with the cough.
  • In patients with severe bacterial pneumonia, trouble breathing may be present.

Diagnosis

X-ray or CT scan: These tests are very important to confirm whether you have lung infections and extent and severity of the infection.

Blood tests, such as complete blood count (CBC), C-reactive protein (CRP) and procalcitonin to check for the presence of body inflammation. Your doctor may also draw blood for microorganism culture to see what microbe it is. Blood may also be drawn for arterial blood gas analysis (ABG) to see how deficient your body oxygen is.

Sputum culture: Your doctor may also collect your sputum to the labs, help the microbes to grow for a few days and find out what it is.

Treatment

The main treatment is antibiotics, which can be either administered orally or intravenously. Your doctor may assess your overall conditions and determine whether you need oral antibiotics or hospitalizations and intravenous antibiotics. Your doctor may put you on antibiotics empirically before the test results come back. The antibiotics treatment may be tailored based on the test results thereafter.

Other supportive measures may also be undertaken, such as oxygen inhalation, use of a humidifier, and drugs to help you mange with the fevers. The treatment course for bacterial pneumonia generally last a few days to a few weeks.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.