What is Involved in a Diagnosis of Pneumonia?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 30 July 2019
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A diagnosis of pneumonia occurs after symptoms prompt a series of medical tests. These tests include blood tests, a chest x-ray, a doctor listening to breathing patterns and a laboratory testing of the fluids that are causing chest and lung congestion. After a correct diagnosis of pneumonia has been made, the condition can be effectively treated by rest and, if necessary, antibiotics.

When a virus or bacterial infection invades the lungs, inflammation soon follows. It is this inflammation that causes symptoms leading to a diagnosis of pneumonia. Pneumonia in children is usually characterized by fever, chills, painful breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain and a mucus-containing cough. Pneumonia in adults may also feature these symptoms, although symptoms may exist to a lesser degree in aging adults.

A person can contract one or more different types of pneumonia. Although multiple types exist, there are three main subtypes that most people become infected with, and each of these is caused by a different circumstance. These three main types are viral pneumonia, which is caused by a virus that has invaded the lungs; bacterial pneumonia, which is caused by invading bacteria; and mycoplasma pneumonia, which is caused by tiny disease particles. Rarely, a person may receive a separate diagnosis of pneumonia not related to either of these three types, but which is caused by inhaling fungi, dust or other irritants.


The symptoms of the three main pneumonia types are somewhat different. Viral pneumonia, which is the most common of all three types, mimics the symptoms of bacterial pneumonia, but blood and phlegm examinations are administered in order to differentiate between the two. If proper precaution is not taken and effective treatment is not administered, viral pneumonia can lead to the contraction of bacterial pneumonia.

Individuals with weakened immune systems are the most susceptible to developing bacterial pneumonia. While viral pneumonia is usually allowed to naturally run its own course and will eventually heal on its own, bacterial pneumonia takes more effort to heal. The primary treatment prescribed after this diagnosis of pneumonia is an antibiotic regimen.

A diagnosis of pneumonia is normally achieved after a person exhibits physical symptoms relating to any of the three main types and seeks medical attention. Tests for pneumonia include an x-ray, which allows doctors to locate any foreign substances in the chest that may contribute to coughing and labored breathing. Blood tests will also aid in the diagnosis of pneumonia by signaling whether or not bacteria or a virus is present in the body. Phlegm produced by coughing is also analyzed to determine if pneumonia is present and to help determine what type of pneumonia a person is suffering from.



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