What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection that affects the lungs in a frequency of 8-15 cases per 1,000 people, characterized by a seasonal distribution, because most of the cases occur in the winter, and men are more often affected than women.
Pneumonia mainly affects people with an impaired immune system (elderly, smokers, people with chronic diseases including diabetes mellitus, cardiological and respiratory diseases, immunocompromised patients).
Pneumonia usually presents with fever and cough (in 80% of cases). Other symptoms are pleural pain, malaise, shortness of breath and sometimes hemoptysis (blood in sputum), nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and decrease in the level of consciousness (especially in elderly patients).
Pneumonia in the elderly.
Elderly patients are a special group of the population, in terms of the appearance of pneumonia.
The changes that accompany old age, lower the presence of fever or other symptoms, but because of the inflammatory process, the decrease of the level of consciousness and tachypnea (increase of the respiratory rate) can be the only signs and symptoms.
In an elderly patient who in recent days and while he was active shows a sinking, a reduced level of consciousness, a change of lifestyle and a refusal to take food or fluids. Quite often, the patient suffering from pneumonia comes to the doctor with shortness of breath, suggesting that the lungs cannot perform their normal function.
This is a manifestation of a serious disease that requires hospitalization and requires appropriate antibiotics, oxygen therapy and other supportive treatment.
Severity of pneumonia.
The severity of pneumonia varies from mild to severe. Mild forms of pneumonia can be treated at the patient’s home (under close supervision by the attending physician) and in the most severe cases the patient concerned must be hospitalized at a hospital or a clinic, and may even require admission at an Intensive Care Unit.
The treatment of pneumonia is based on the administration of antibiotics. Antibiotic therapy should be administered as quickly as possible, because mortality and complications from the disease are greatly reduced, while the correct choice of the antibiotic (based on international guidelines) and all the other supportive treatment are very important parameters for the prognosis.
Possible complications of pneumonia
The complications accompanying pneumonia are the development of pleural parapneumonic effusion, a possible empyema and pneumothorax. Treatment of the complicated pleural effusion and the pneumothorax is drainage with chest tube.
Pneumonia can be prevented by vaccination against pneumococcal disease with two vaccines: prevenar-13 (once in a lifetime) and pneumo -23(every 5-10 years).