Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: pneumonia from Philip's Encyclopedia

Inflammation of the lung tissue, most often caused by bacterial infection. Most at risk are the very young, the aged, and those whose immune systems have been undermined by disease or certain medical treatments. The most common form is pneumococcal pneumonia, caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae. Symptoms include fever, chest pain, coughing and the production of rust-coloured sputum. Treatment is with antibiotics.

Summary Article: pneumonia
From The Columbia Encyclopedia

(nʊmōn'yӘ), acute infection of one or both lungs that can be caused by a bacterium, usually Streptococcus pneumoniae (also called pneumococcus; see streptococcus), or by a virus, fungus, or other organism. The causal organisms reach the lungs through the respiratory passages. Usually an upper respiratory infection precedes the disease. Alcoholism, extreme youth or age, debility, immunosuppressive disorders and therapy, and compromised consciousness are predisposing factors. When one or more entire lobes of the lung are involved, the infection is considered a lobar pneumonia. When the disease is confined to the air spaces adjacent to the bronchi, it is known as bronchopneumonia. Aspiration pneumonia is the pathological consequence of the abnormal entry of fluids, particulate matter, or secretions in the lower airways.

The symptoms of pneumonia are high fever, chills, pain in the chest, difficulty in breathing, cough, and sputum that is pinkish at first and becomes rust-colored as the infection progresses. The skin may turn bluish because the lungs are not sufficiently oxygenating the blood. Complete bed rest and good supportive care are important. Oxygen helps to relieve severe respiratory difficulty.

Immunization for pneumococcal pneumonia is recommended for children under two years old, adults 65 or older, and others at risk. Penicillin is most commonly used to treat pneumococcal pneumonia and other pneumonias caused by bacteria and, with the other antibiotic and sulfa drugs, is responsible for the marked decline since the mid-20th cent. in mortality figures. Nevertheless, pneumonia is still a serious disease, especially in elderly and debilitated persons (who usually acquire bronchopneumonia) or when complicated by bacterial invasion of the bloodstream, membranes of the heart, or the central nervous system.

Viral pneumonia, generally milder than the bacterial form, is the result of lower respiratory infection and has been the cause of more than 90% of deaths for individuals over 65. Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, which is caused by an organism traditionally thought to be a parasitic protozoan but now suspected to be a fungus, generally only occurs in patients who have AIDS or leukemia or whose immune system is otherwise suppressed.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

Related Articles

Full text Article Pneumonia
The Cambridge Historical Dictionary of Disease

Pneumonia is an acute inflammatory condition of lung parenchyma (lung tissue excluding the airways) caused by a variety of infectious agents...

Full text Article Pneumonia
Encyclopedia of Global Health

The lungs are primarily responsible for gas exchange, removing carbon dioxide in exchange for oxygen. The lungs have significant surface area and...

See more from Credo