Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation in the lungs. The air sacs may be filled with either pus or fluid causing major discomfort. Pneumonia is caused by virus, bacteria or fungal infection. Elderly above 60 are at higher risk of the disease as their immune system becomes weak with age and they become more susceptible to catch infections.
It is important to get treatment immediately as delay may lead to serious complications.
Here are a few complications that can arise due to untreated pneumonia:
- Bacteremia and Septic shock: If the pneumonia is caused by bacteria, it can enter the bloodstream and cause bacteremia. Bacteremia can lead to septic shock; a reaction the body has to the infection. It can drop the blood pressure to dangerous levels. With low blood pressure, heart may not be able to pump blood to all the organs, leading to organ failure. If you have stomach aches, confusion, fever or chills or a low blood pressure in pneumonia, talk to your doctor immediately. He will give you medication to treat bacteremia and you will start feeling better.
- Lung abscesses: Sometimes, pneumonia can cause the lungs to fill up with pockets of pus. Older adults and men are more prone to abscesses. If you have night sweats, fever, pus in cough or don’t feel hungry and keep losing weight, consult your doctor immediately.
- Pleural Effusions, Empyema, and Pleurisy: Pleura are layers of tissues around the lungs that help them move smoothly when you breathe. Untreated pneumonia can cause the pleura to swell, causing sharp pain when you breathe. The area between the pleura can also build fluids, leading to pleural effusion. If the fluid gets infected, it leads to a problem called empyema. If you have chest pain worsening while coughing or breathing, difficulty when breathing, fever or pain that travels to your shoulder and back, speak to your doctor immediately. They will do an X-Ray to confirm the diagnosis and give you effective medicines.
- Respiratory failure: If the lungs fill up with fluids, there won’t be enough oxygen being transferred in by the lungs or carbon dioxide expelled out. People with weak immune system, older adults and alcoholics are at higher risk. If you feel palpitations, anxiety, fatigue, inability to breathe, fast breathing, sweating, lose consciousness or feel confused, seek help from your doctor immediately.
Pneumococcal vaccines are approved in several countries across the world, including the US, EU, and India, for adults aged above 50 years for the prevention of pneumonia and other invasive diseases.
Pneumonia can be treated with timely medical intervention and all the complications can be completely avoided by visiting the doctor on the first signs of pneumonia.
Also Read: Five Important Immunizations for Elderly