Your lungs are two spongy organs surrounded by a moist membrane (the pleura).Each lung is divided into lobes — three on the right and two on the left. When youinhale, air is carried through the windpipe (trachea) to your lungs. Inside your lungs,there are major airways called bronchi. The bronchi repeatedly subdivide into manysmaller airways (bronchioles), which finally end in clusters of tiny air sacs calledalveoli.Your body has mechanisms to protect your lungs from infection. In fact, you'refrequently exposed to bacteria and viruses that can cause pneumonia, but your bodynormally prevents most of these organisms from invading and overwhelming your airways. For example, the nasal cilia screen out a lot of organisms but can't stop allfrom getting into your airways. Sometimes — for reasons that aren't always wellunderstood — these microorganisms can get past your body's defenses, finally findingtheir way into your lungs' air sacs.There, white blood cells (leukocytes), a key part of your immune system, begin toattack the invading organisms. The accumulating pathogens, white cells and immune proteins cause the air sacs to become inflamed and filled with fluid, leading to thedifficult breathing that characterizes many types of pneumonia. If both lungs areinvolved, it's called
Classifications of pneumonia
Pneumonia is sometimes classified according to the cause of pneumonia:
This refers to pneumonia you acquire in the course of your daily life — at school, work or the gym, for instance.
Hospital-acquired (nosocomial) pneumonia.
If you're hospitalized, you're ata higher risk of pneumonia, especially if you are on a mechanical ventilator,are in the intensive care unit or have a compromised immune system. Thistype of pneumonia can be extremely serious, especially for older adults, youngchildren and people with chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) or HIV/AIDS.A common predisposing factor for this type of pneumonia is gastroesophagealreflux. This occurs when some of the contents of your stomach back up intothe upper esophagus. From there, the gastroesophageal contents can beaspirated into the trachea and then into your airways. Even very small amountsof gastroesophageal reflux can lead to pneumonia in people who arehospitalized.
This type of pneumonia occurs when foreign matter is inhaled (aspirated) into your lungs — most often when the contents of your stomach enter your lungs after you vomit. This commonly happens when a brain injury or other condition affects your normal gag reflex.Another common cause of aspiration pneumonia is consuming too muchalcohol. This happens when the inebriated person passes out, and then vomitsdue to the effects of alcohol on the stomach. If someone's unconscious, it's possible to aspirate the liquid contents and possibly solid food from thestomach into the lungs, causing aspiration pneumonia.