What is a staph infection?
A Staphylococcus or staph infection is caused by a germ that may be found in 30% of healthy people’s noses. Most of the time, these bacteria do not cause any health problems. However, in some people, it may cause skin and other organ infections. Staph is highly contagious and sometimes may not respond to antibiotics.
How serious is a staph infection?
Most often, staph causes minor skin infections such as a boil. However, if it enters into your bloodstream and other organs, it may turn out to be deadly.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium that causes staph infections, which is unresponsive to standard antibiotics.. A staph infection can be dangerous and must be treated with caution.
Staph infections can affect different organs and lead to the following conditions
- Skin infections including
- Boils: These are painful pus-filled bumps over the buttocks and skin creases.
- Impetigo: These red sores are seen over a child’s nose and mouth and they may crust.
- Cellulitis: This is swollen, red, painful warm skin with deeper tissue infections.
- Staphylococcal-scalded skin syndrome: This is a serious skin condition causing peeling of the skin.
- Pneumonia: This is an infection of the lungs.
- Endocarditis: This is an infection of the inner layer of your heart.
- Osteomyelitis: This is a bone infection and inflammation.
- Septic arthritis: This is swelling of the joints with severe pain and fever.
- Food poisoning: Staph infection is a very common cause of food poisoning. It may lead to nausea, vomiting, dehydration and low blood pressure. The symptoms appear quickly and can be deadly.
- Toxic shock syndrome: This is a deadly condition due to toxins produced by certain bacteria. It may be linked to the usage of tampons, skin wounds and surgery. You may get a high fever, nausea, vomiting, rashes on palms, muscle aches and stomach pain.
- Bacteremia (blood poisoning): If the bacteria enters your bloodstream, it may travel to other organs and lead to sepsis (a life-threatening complication that leads to malfunction of all the organs).
What causes a staph infection?
Staph bacteria may pass from person to person through any object and it can survive in dry, extreme temperatures and an acidic environment.
Your risk of staph infections may increase if you
- Are sharing personal items such as towels, razors, etc.
- Have uncovered and oozing wounds
- Are playing high-contact sports or living in crowded places
- Have recently stayed at the hospital
- Are addicted to injectable drugs such as opioids
- Have undergone a surgery
- Are exposed to a patient carrying a staph infection
- Have artificial body parts such as a joint, pacemaker, etc.
- Have trauma or a puncture wound
- Have poorly-controlled diabetes
- Are lacking in proper nutrition
- Have too little iron in the body
- Are an alcoholic
- Have intravenous lines (tubes inserted into your body to insert medicine), catheter (to remove urine) or feeding or breathing tubes
- Have kidney disease and are on dialysis (treatment to filter and purify blood using a machine)
- Have a weak immune system due to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), chemotherapy or organ transplant
- Have blood disorders such as leukemia (blood cancer) and lymphoma (cancer of lymph glands)
- Are on medications that may weaken your immune system such as steroids and retinoids (vitamin A compounds)
How are staph infections diagnosed?
- Your doctor may examine you, check the body signs and ask about your symptoms.
- To further confirm the infection, your doctor may scrape the skin or the affected part to take a sample or swab the throat or nasal passages or check a stool sample.
- Your doctor may order an imaging test depending on the location of the infection to assess the spread.
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