Cat Scratch Disease: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    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.

Cat scratch disease is also known as catscratch disease, cat scratch fever, or subacute regional lymphadenitis. Most patients have a history of exposure to cats, and the disease begins with a reddish brown nodule (small bump) on the skin at the site of infection. There is typically no pain or tenderness. Over the next weeks, swollen lymph nodes develop that may be accompanied by tenderness. About half of patients have other symptoms like fever, malaise, joint pains, loss of appetite, fatigue, headache, and sore throat. Other less common symptoms that have been reported include rash, weight loss, seizures, mental status changes, numbness and tingling of the extremities, and irritation of the eyes.

Causes of cat scratch disease

Cat scratch disease occurs due to bacterial infection of the lymph nodes with bacteria known as Bartonella henselae. It is often caused by a bite or scratch from a cat that carries the bacteria. Cats who carry B. henselae do not show any signs of illness.

REFERENCES:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Nervi, Stephen J. "Catscratch Disease." Medscape.com. Oct. 19, 2016. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/214100-overview>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/18/2017

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