Written By: Ehsan Jahandarpour

Pneumonia (nu-mo’ne-a) is an inflammatory condition of the lung affecting primarily the microscopic air sacs known as alveoli. It is usually caused by infection with viruses or bacteria and less commonly other microorganisms, certain drugs and other conditions such as autoimmune diseases. Typical symptoms include a cough, chest pain, fever, and difficulty breathing. Diagnostic tools include x-rays and culture of the sputum. Vaccines to prevent certain types of pneumonia are available. Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Pneumonia presumed to be bacterial is treated with antibiotics. If the pneumonia is severe, the affected person is generally hospitalized. Pneumonia affects approximately 450 million people globally per year, seven percent of population, and results in about 4 million deaths, mostly in developing countries. Although pneumonia was regarded by William Osler in the 19th century as “the captain of the men of death,” the advent of antibiotic therapy and vaccines in the 20th century has seen improvements in survival. Nevertheless, in developing countries, and among the very old, the very young, and the chronically ill, pneumonia remains a leading cause of death. In the terminally ill and elderly, especially those with other conditions, pneumonia is often the immediate cause of death. In such cases, particularly when it cuts short the suffering associated with lingering illness, pneumonia has often been called “the old man’s friend.”