Staph Infection

Overview

A staph infection is a serious illness caused by the staphylococcus bacteria. This common bacteria can be found on the skin, under the fingernails and even in the nasal lining of most healthy adults. However, when it enters the skin through a cut or abrasion, it can cause serious infections. Skin infections are the most common, and many of those can be successfully treated. However, the staphylococcus bacteria can also cause serious conditions such as toxic shock syndrome, cellulitis, meningitis, necrotising fasciitis or damage joints and organs such as the lungs and heart. In addition, many strains have become resistant to traditional antibiotics and are becoming harder to treat.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Staph infections can affect the skin, bones, blood or organs and can exhibit a wide range of symptoms. For instance, skin infections – the most common staph infection – may exhibit symptoms such as a painful rash, blisters, boils, pus pockets, skin swelling and ulcers. In severe cases, such as Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome, the infection can leave the skin looking raw and burned.

If the staphylococcus bacteria enters the bloodstream, bacteremia can occur. Often, the only early sign is a persistent fever. Patients who have a long-term fever should seek medical attention as bacteremia can cause damage to organ, bone and muscle tissue. Toxic shock syndrome is a life-threatening form of bacteremia that includes symptoms such as a rash on the hands and feet, high fever, aching muscles, nausea, vomiting, headaches, disorientation and seizures. In addition, joint swelling and pain associated with fever or chills can be a symptom of septic arthritis caused by a staph infection.

A physical exam is performed to diagnose staph infection. Rashes or lesions are examined to determine the type and severity. A sample of any fluid from blisters or boils, or a skin sample, may be taken for examination to determine the presence of the staphylococcus bacteria.

Causes

Staph infections are caused by the staphylococcus bacteria. In healthy adults, these bacteria can live on the skin and may cause no problems, but when an opening is made – such as through a cut or abrasion – the bacteria can enter the body and cause infection. In addition, these bacteria are easily transmitted from person to person and can live on surfaces. Those with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to staph infections. Continue reading for Prevention and Treatment information . . .

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