How Is Pneumonia Diagnosed And Treated?


Pneumonia is a serious illness – and it’s also frighteningly common. According to the American Thoracic Society, about one million adults are hospitalized for pneumonia in the United States every year, and about 50,000 of them die from the disease. For older adults, pneumonia is particularly perilous; people over the age of 65 are at a higher risk of contracting pneumonia than the general population, and they’re also more likely to die from it.

The good news is, recovering from pneumonia at any age is possible with a successful treatment plan – and the earlier you get a diagnosis, the earlier your treatment can begin.

Recognizing the symptoms of pneumonia

The symptoms of pneumonia often mimic other less serious illnesses. If you have body aches, high fever, fatigue, or a hacking cough, it could be bronchitis or the flu. Pneumonia, however, has a few distinct symptoms, such as:

  • Sharp chest pains

  • Profuse sweating

  • Shaking chills

  • Shortness of breath

  • Mental confusion, particularly in older adults

Pneumonia can often come on slowly, and as a complication from other illnesses like the flu. If you experience any of the above symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor for a formal diagnosis, especially if you’re over 65.

Obtaining a pneumonia diagnosis

If your doctor suspects you have pneumonia, you’ll be asked to undergo a series of tests to ensure a correct diagnosis. Some exams you might be subjected to are:

  • Blood tests

These check your white blood cell count and potentially identify the type of organism causing your pneumonia.

  • Chest x-rays

These help your doctor pinpoint the exact location and severity of the infection.

  • Pulse oximetry

A small clip attaches to your finger to measure the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream.

  • CT scan

If the chest x-ray doesn’t give enough information, a CT scan may be used to get a closer look.

  • Pleural fluid culture

A fluid sample is extracted from the space between your lungs and chest cavity, then analyzed to help identify the source of the infection.

Treating pneumonia

Once you’ve obtained a formal diagnosis, then pneumonia treatment can begin. According to the American Lung Association, there are over 30 different causes of pneumonia, so your exact treatment plan will depend on the type of pneumonia you have. Some of the most common types of pneumonia are:

  • Bacterial pneumonia

Antibiotics often improve symptoms quickly for bacterial pneumonia patients.

  • Viral pneumonia

Sometimes, doctors will prescribe antiviral medications, but usually, it’s necessary to let the virus run its course.

  • Fungal pneumonia

Common in people with weakened immune systems, fungal pneumonia is treated with antifungal drugs, administered either orally or intravenously.

During pneumonia treatment recovery, other medications are administered to relieve chest pain and coughs, and if necessary, supplemental oxygen is provided. Perhaps the most important element of pneumonia recovery, though, is rest. To give your body a chance to heal, stay off your feet, stay hydrated, and get plenty of sleep.

Potential complications of pneumonia

Without proper treatment, your pneumonia could linger, relapse, or possibly turn into something worse, such as:

  • Respiratory failure

When your body is unable to deliver oxygen to your blood or remove carbon dioxide from it, this is considered respiratory failure, which may require the use of a ventilator.

  • Sepsis

Sepsis is the body’s response to infection, causing widespread inflammation and, potentially, organ failure.

  • Lung abscess

Pneumonia infection can cause pockets in the lungs to fill up with pus, requiring surgery to drain them.

The best way to avoid complications from pneumonia is to seek treatment and follow all instructions given by your provider.

Pneumonia treatment recovery at Bella Vista Health Center San Diego

If you’ve been diagnosed with pneumonia, Bella Vista Health Center offers a safe, restful, and restorative environment for your treatment and recovery period. Our skilled nursing facility is staffed with knowledgeable and compassionate medical professionals who will provide you with a comprehensive treatment plan. With round-the-clock access to respiratory therapists, doctors, and nurses, staying at Bella Vista allows you the time and space you need to fully rest and focus on your pneumonia recovery.

Call (619) 644-1000 and let us care for you.