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Understanding Pneumonia -- the Basics

What Is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an acute infection of the lungs. It's a more common problem than most people think. Usually pneumonia is a mild disease, but some forms are very dangerous and require a hospital stay. In all cases, you'll need to seek care from your health care provider.

Pneumonia can affect just one lobe of the right or left lung, a whole lung, or both lungs.

Recommended Related to Lung Disease/Respiratory Problems

Obstructive and Restrictive Lung Disease

Doctors may classify lung conditions as obstructive lung disease or restrictive lung disease. Obstructive lung diseases include conditions that make it hard to exhale all the air in the lungs. People with restrictive lung disease have difficulty fully expanding their lungs with air. Obstructive and restrictive lung disease share the same main symptom: shortness of breath with exertion.

Read the Obstructive and Restrictive Lung Disease article > >

Many different kinds of germs infect the lungs and cause pneumonia. Infected lungs leak fluids and shed dead cells. This material clogs up air sacs and makes it hard for the lungs to do their job of getting oxygen into the blood. Without enough oxygen, none of the cells in your body work as they should.

Pneumonia generally lasts about two weeks. However, you may feel tired or weak for a month or more after the lungs clear up.

What Causes Pneumonia?

Usually the inflammation is caused by a bacterial infection, but it can also be caused by a virus, fungus, or parasite.

Many of these germs are all around us. They usually can't get past a healthy person's natural defenses. Pneumonia is most common in those with weaker or compromised immune systems, such as elderly people, cigarette smokers, alcoholics, and people suffering from other diseases such as the flu.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Lisa B. Bernstein, MD on March 18, 2015

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