Staph Infection (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- What is Staphylococcus?
- Who is at risk for Staph infections?
- What are the symptoms and signs of a Staph infection?
- What types of diseases are caused by Staph?
- How are Staph infections diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for Staph infections?
- What is antibiotic-resistant Staph aureus?
- What are complications of Staph infections?
- Can Staph infections be prevented?
- What is the prognosis for Staph infections?
- Staph Infection At A Glance
- Pictures of Staph Infection - Slideshow
- Pictures of MRSA - Slideshow
What are the symptoms and signs of a Staph infection?
Staphylococcal disease of the skin usually results in a localized collection of pus, known as an abscess, boil, or furuncle, depending upon the exact type of lesion that is present. The affected area may be red, swollen, and painful. Drainage or pus is common. When Staph is in the blood (bacteremia or sepsis), it can cause high fevers, chills, and low blood pressure.
What types of diseases are caused by Staph?
Skin infections (see above) are the most common type of disease produced by Staphylococcus. Staph infections of the skin can progress to impetigo (a crusting of the skin) or cellulitis (inflammation of the deeper layers of skin and connective tissue under the skin, leading to swelling and redness of the area). In rare situations, a serious complication known as scalded skin syndrome (see below) can develop. In breastfeeding women, Staph can result in mastitis (inflammation of the breast) or in abscess of the breast. Staphylococcal breast abscesses can release bacteria into the mother's milk.
When the bacteria enter the bloodstream and spread to other organs, a number of serious infections can occur. Spread of the organisms to the bloodstream is known as bacteremia or sepsis. Staphylococcal pneumonia predominantly affects people with underlying lung disease and can lead to abscess formation within the lungs. Infection of the heart valves (endocarditis) can lead to heart failure. Spread of Staphylococci to the bones can result in severe inflammation of the bones known as osteomyelitis. When Staph bacteria are present in the blood, a condition known as staphylococcal sepsis (widespread infection of the bloodstream) or staphylococcal bacteremia exists. Staphylococcal sepsis is a leading cause of shock and circulatory collapse, leading to death, in people with severe burns over large areas of the body. When untreated, Staph aureus sepsis carries a mortality (death) rate of over 80%. Although not common, Staph aureus has been reported as a cause of chorioamnionitis and neonatal sepsis in pregnancy, but group B streptococci are the most common bacterial cause of this life-threatening condition for the fetus.
Staphylococcal infections are contagious and can be transmitted from person to person. Since pus from infected wounds may contain the bacteria, proper hygiene and hand washing is required when caring for Staph-infected wounds.
Staphylococcal food poisoning is an illness of the bowels that causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. It is caused by eating foods contaminated with toxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus rather than a true infection with the bacteria. Symptoms usually develop within one to six hours after eating contaminated food. The illness usually lasts for one to three days and resolves on its own. Patients with this illness are not contagious since toxins are not transmitted from one person to another.
Toxic shock syndrome is an illness caused by toxins secreted by Staph aureus bacteria growing under conditions in which there is little or no oxygen. Toxic shock syndrome is characterized by the sudden onset of high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle aches, followed by low blood pressure (hypotension), which can lead to shock and death. There may be a rash resembling sunburn, with peeling of skin. Toxic shock syndrome was originally described and still occurs especially in menstruating women using tampons.
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