Causes and Complications of Pneumonia
What causes pneumonia in elderly adults?
Viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other organisms entering the lungs can cause pneumonia. In the U.S., pneumonia in the elderly is usually caused by bacteria or a virus, including SARS-CoV-2 (the virus responsible for COVID-19).
The influenza virus is the most common cause of viral pneumonia in adults. Pneumonia caused by the influenza virus can be severe and even deadly, especially in people with other health conditions such as heart or lung disease.
COVID-19 can cause a severe type of double pneumonia that can lead to long-lasting lung damage. It may take several months to recover. Pneumonia associated with COVID-19 can sometimes be fatal, especially in high-risk populations like elderly adults. One way to prevent this double pneumonia is by getting the COVID-19 vaccine. As seniors are already more susceptible to pneumonia in general and have an increased risk of hospitalization, getting vaccinated can be one more step to preventing an infection.
Bacteria is another common cause of pneumonia, and certain groups are more at risk of catching bacterial pneumonia:
— Adults 65 and older
— People with a weakened immune system
— Patients recovering from surgery
— People with other respiratory conditions or viral infections
Pneumococcal pneumonia is the most common type of bacterial pneumonia, affecting more than 900,000 Americans each year. This type of pneumonia is caused by a germ called Streptococcus pneumoniae. It can occur on its own or after someone has a cold or the flu.
Older adults are at risk for complications of pneumonia, including:
— Bacteremia, a potentially fatal infection that enters the bloodstream from the lungs and can spread to other organs
— Pleurisy, an inflammation of the membrane that covers the lungs (pleura), which may require surgery or drainage of the infected fluid in the lungs
— Lung abscess, a pus-filled cavity that can develop in the infected lung area
— Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which occurs when pneumonia severely injures the lungs, leading to respiratory failure.
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John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions.
Phone: (781) 378-2164