The effects of pneumonia on the lungs involve overproduction of mucus and other fluids, leading to difficulty breathing and inhibiting gas exchange in the lungs, making it harder to supply the body with oxygen. In the long term, pneumonia can be associated with permanent lung damage, putting people at risk of respiratory failure in the future because their lungs are no longer as strong and healthy as they once were. Treating pneumonia early can help limit permanent lung problems.
In patients with pneumonia, an infection becomes active in the lungs. Fungi, bacteria, viruses, and other organisms can all potentially colonize the lungs if someone's immune system is unable to fight them off. The infection causes the small air sacs in the lungs, known as alveoli, to fill with fluid. It becomes harder to inflate the lungs because the pressure inside the lung is disrupted, people have difficulty breathing, and the oxygen with each breath doesn't reach as far as it should.
The effects of pneumonia on the lungs can lead people to have shortness of breath, a bluish tinge in the extremities, and rapid breathing as they fight for air. Patients may also cough, often producing sputum. In some cases, pneumonia leads to the development of an abscess in the lungs, a potentially serious complication. Patients can also go into respiratory failure, where the lungs are no longer able to function and mechanical ventilation may be required to keep the person alive.
In lobar pneumonia, an entire lobe of a lung is involved. Bronchial pneumonia involves isolated patches of infection in one or both lungs. In either case, the effects of pneumonia on the lungs can onset rapidly once the infection starts raging. Patients usually experience warning signs like fever, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting, along with the difficulty breathing. Listening to the lungs can reveal distinctive sounds associated with the fluid-filled alveoli and the patient's labored breathing.
To counter the effects of pneumonia on the lungs, doctors focus on finding an appropriate medication to treat the infection, as well as providing supportive care. Patients may need to be hospitalized if the infection is severe, and in some cases ventilation is required to help patients breathe. Left untreated, infections in the lungs can become fatal for the patient, as eventually, tissues in the body will start to suffer as a result of oxygen deprivation. When the supply of oxygen to the brain is limited by pneumonia, the patient can develop seizures and fall into a coma.