What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a general term for a variety of diseases that cause an inflammation of the lungs. Pneumonia is most often caused by a bacterial infection (bacterial pneumonia) or a viral infection (viral pneumonia). Typical symptoms of pneumonia include fever, shortness of breath, and a wet cough that produces thick white, yellow, green or brownish phlegm.

Pneumonia is a common disease that can occur at any time of the year. It can occur in almost any population but is most common in smokers and people who have chronic infections and diseases, such as:

  • Acute bronchitis

  • Asthma

  • Congestive heart failure

  • Emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

  • Lung cancer

In generally healthy adults, pneumonia can be a relatively moderate condition and not require hospitalization. However, pneumonia is a common complication of a variety of diseases and can lead to life-threatening complications, such as sepsis and respiratory failure. Pneumonia is a frequent cause of death, especially in infants and older adults with chronic diseases, or people who have immune systems that are weakened as a result of such conditions as HIV/AIDS.

Seek prompt medical care if you have symptoms of pneumonia, such as fever and a wet cough that produces white, yellow, green or brownish phlegm. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have moderate to severe shortness of breath, bluish coloration of the lips or fingernails, or a change in level of consciousness or alertness.


What are the symptoms of pneumonia?

The symptoms of pneumonia are caused by inflammation of the lungs due to infection or irritation. In response, the lungs produce excessive amounts of thick phlegm, which must be coughed up in order to keep the airways open for effective breathing.

The types and severity of symptoms of pneumonia vary depending on a variety of factors, such as a person’s age, general health, and med... Read more about pneumoniasymptoms


What causes pneumonia?

Pneumonia is usually caused by a bacterial infection (bacterial pneumonia) or a viral infection (viral pneumonia). Pneumonia caused by an infection (infectious pneumonia) usually spreads from person to person when someone with the disease coughs, talks or sneezes. This shoots contaminated droplets into the air where they can be breathed in by others.

Pneumonia can also be caused b... Read more about pneumoniacauses


How is pneumonia treated?

The goals of pneumonia treatment include minimizing the risk of serious complications and controlling symptoms to allow you to rest and recover. Mild to moderate cases of pneumonia that occur in generally healthy adults may be treated at home. More severe cases of pneumonia or cases in infants, older adults, or people with chronic diseases often require hospitalization.

Treatment ... Read more about pneumoniatreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Lungs, Breathing and Respiration

Popular Lungs, Breathing and Respiration Slide Shows

Personal Story Network

A place where patients, healthcare providers, caregivers, and innovators share their personal stories about healing, and hope within the healthcare system and beyond.