How Dangerous Is Pseudomonas Infection?
Germs that live in soil and water can cause Pseudomonas infections. You can get these infections in different parts of your body. The most common type that humans get is Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
The germs may live in pools, hot tubs, and dirty contact lenses. But healthy people don’t usually get infected. The most serious infections happen in the hospital where people are already sick. More than 50,000 of these hospital-related infections happen in the United States each year. Some strains don’t respond to drugs. Those can kill the sickest hospital patients.
Symptoms of Pseudomonas Infections
Pseudomonas infections can develop in different parts of your body, including your:
- Eyes and ears
- Bones and joints
- Urinary tract
- Heart valves
Symptoms vary depending on where the infection is. But you may have:
- Fever, swelling, tenderness
- Low blood pressure
- Yellowing of the skin
- Rapid heartbeat
- Trouble breathing
- Itch, irritation around the tiny holes in your skin that hair grows from (folliculitis)
- Ear problems, including swelling, pain, hearing loss, itching, discharge
- Sinus problems
- Pain or other problems when you pee
- Eye problems, especially from contaminated contacts
- Purple-black spots on the skin surrounded by a red ring
What Causes Pseudomonas Infections?
Ear and skin infections can happen if water that contains the germ gets in your ears or on skin. Contaminated contact lenses can cause eye infections.
Pseudomonas infections that hospital patients get can happen after surgery. They can also develop during a severe sickness, such as pneumonia.
Germs can spread on hospital equipment or surfaces in patient rooms. Doctors, nurses, and other health care workers also can spread it with their hands.
The bacteria also live in moist environments such as:
- Sinks and toilets
- Antiseptic solutions
- Armpits and genitals
Pseudomonas Risk Factors
Healthy people typically don’t have much risk. However, a few groups may be more susceptible than others, including people who inject drugs. Young black men seem to have greater risk of heart valve infections. Pregnant women have a greater risk because hormone changes affect their immune system.
Hospital patients face the highest risk, especially if they have a:
Infections also tend to be more severe in people who have:
- An autoimmune disorder
- Cystic fibrosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- HIV or AIDS
- A weakened immune system resulting from cancer treatment or organ transplant medicines
Risk also varies by age:
- Babies -- Greater risk for joint infections
- Children -- At risk for bone infections after foot wounds, especially after stepping on a nail or sharp object
- Older patients -- More vulnerable to bone and joint infections
What Is the Best Treatment for Pseudomonas?
If you have symptoms of Pseudomonas infection, a health provider will take a sample of your blood or other body fluid and send it to a lab to test. This confirms the type of bacteria that infected you. It may also help determine which medicine will work for you.
Antibiotics that you swallow or receive by IV are commonly used to treat Pseudomonas infections. Topical creams are used to treat skin infections. Ear and eye infections require drops.
Certain symptoms, such as hot tub folliculitis, go away without treatment. Lung, heart, and blood issues may require weeks of antibiotics. Other symptoms or situations may require a combination of medicines.
Some infections -- about 6,000 each year -- don’t get better with antibiotics. These infections may require specialized doctors, drainage, and surgery. Doctors monitor the most severe patients in an intensive care unit. About 400 people a year die from the infection.
If you get an antibiotic prescription for your infection, finish it -- even if you feel better. If you don’t, the infection can stay in your system. Then it will be harder to treat. You could also pass that hard-to-treat infection to others.
How to Prevent Pseudomonas Infection
For anyone who uses pools and hot tubs:
- Avoid any that look dirty or might not have enough chlorine in them.
- Remove and clean your swimwear as soon as you get out of a pool or hot tub.
- Don’t wear contacts when you swim or soak.
For all contact lens users:
- Clean your contacts and properly store your contact solution.
Hospital visitors should wash their hands with soap and water before and after the visit. Health care providers and staff should:
- Wash hands often.
- Wear gloves and masks.
- Clean patient rooms, nurse carts, food trays, and blood pressure cuffs.
When you or someone in your home has had this infection:
- Clean contaminated surfaces.
- Wash contaminated clothes and sheets with hot water.
Everyone should follow these rules for good hygiene:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue.
CDC: “Pseudomonas aeruginosa in Healthcare Settings.”
Merck Manual, Consumer Version: “Pseudomonas Infections.”
Medscape: “Pseudomonas Infection.”
British Lung Foundation: “Pseudomonas infection.”
Ventola, C Lee. Pharmacy & Therapeutics: “The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis. Part 1: Causes and Threat.”