Pneumonia can be hard to diagnose because it may seem like a cold or the flu. In fact, you may not realize it’s more serious until it lasts longer than a normal illness. Medical professionals who can diagnose pneumonia include:
A doctor who suspects pneumonia begins by taking a thorough medical history. In fact, in many cases of mild-to-moderate pneumonia, doctors can make an initial diagnosis based on your medical history and a physical. During a medical history, your doctor will ask about signs and symptoms, how and when they began. To identify type of germ may be causing pneumonia, be prepare to answer the following questions:
Doctors must determine whether pneumonia is caused by a bacterium, virus, or fungus. This is because each type of pneumonia requires a different treatment. Although symptoms may differ, they often overlap, which can make it difficult to identify the organism by symptoms alone. Doctors begin a physical exam using a stethoscope to listen for crackling, bubbling, wheezing, and rumbling sounds from the lungs during inhalations. If your doctor suspects pneumonia, s/he may order one or more of the following tests.
Blood Tests - Blood tests such as a complete blood count (CBC) measure many parts of the blood, including the number of white blood cells, which can indicate a bacterial infection. Blood cultures help identify whether the infection has spread to the bloodstream, or not. This test is also used to detect germs in the bloodstream and may indicate which germ caused the infection. Or if you’re very sick, your doctor may need to measure the level of oxygen in your blood using a blood sample taken from an artery, usually in the wrist.
Bronchoscopy – During a bronchoscopy, doctors use a thin, flexible tube with a camera on its tip to look inside the lungs' airways. During the procedure, doctors pass a scope through the nose or mouth, down the throat, and into the airways to see whether something is blocking the airways or whether another factor is contributing to pneumonia.
Chest ct scan - A chest CT scan creates a precise image of the lungs, in order to better see what is happening, in more detail.
Chest x ray - A chest x ray creates pictures of the heart and lungs and is most reliable when diagnosing pneumonia. However, an x ray dose not diagnose what kind of germ is causing pneumonia.
Pleural fluid culture – During this exam, a sample of fluid is taken from the space between the lungs and chest wall called the pleural space. The fluid sample is then studied for germs that may cause pneumonia.
Pulse oximetry – During a pulse oximtery, a small clip is attached to the finger or ear to test how much oxygen is in the blood in order to rate the severity of the pneumonia.
Sputum test - Your doctor may look at a sample of sputum (spit) collected after a deep cough to help identify what germ may be the cause of pneumonia.
Doctors may order other additional tests if you’re in the hospital, have serious symptoms, are older, or have other health problems. The course of pneumonia will vary from person to person and case to case. However, most people recover from pneumonia within a few weeks. Click here to learn more about how doctors treat pneumonia, including administering a vaccine via the pneumonia shot now.