What Causes Actinomycosis?

Medically Reviewed on 10/26/2021
what causes actinomycosis
Actinomycosis is an infection that can be caused by disease or tissue damage due to injury or medical procedures. Learn about symptoms and treatment

Actinomycosis is an infection that can be caused by disease or tissue damage due to injury or medical procedures.

When something sharp damages the internal body tissues, for example, a fish bone in the throat, the bacteria can spread. Actinomycosis can likewise occur in cases of tooth decay or gum diseases.

What is actinomycosis?

Actinomycosis is a chronic bacterial disease that usually affects the face and neck and typically caused by the bacteria Actinomyces israelii. These bacteria are found in the nose and throat and normally don't cause infection in healthy tissues. They become dangerous if they spread beyond their usual environment.

Because these microorganisms are normally found in the nose and throat, actinomycosis mostly affects the face and neck. Actinomycosis can sometimes occur in the chest (pulmonary actinomycosis), abdomen, pelvis, or other parts of the body. It isn't infectious (doesn't spread to others).

9 symptoms of actinomycosis

While symptoms of actinomycosis depend on the type and location of the infection, general symptoms may include:

  1. Inflammation and swelling at the site of the disease
  2. Abscesses (pus-filled regions)
  3. Pus discharge from draining sores
  4. Fever
  5. Weight loss
  6. Lumps on the neck or face
  7. Excess sinus drainage
  8. Coughing
  9. Chest pain

Related symptoms may include body ache, exhaustion, weight loss, and an overall sensation of being unwell.

How do doctors diagnose actinomycosis?

To diagnose actinomycosis, a sample of sputum, pus, or tissue may be sent to a lab for microscopic examination. Sometimes, the lab will make a culture of the sample bacteria.

Abscesses can look like cancer growth and may cause symptoms such as tuberculosis. Thus, it is important to identify and rule out other causes of similar symptoms. Your doctor may advise imaging tests such as a computed tomography scan of the affected area.

What is the treatment of actinomycosis?

Actinomycosis grows gradually but can severely affect your health. Seeking early treatment is crucial. 

Treatment with antibiotics, such as penicillin, is common. If you are allergic to penicillin, your doctor may give you other antibiotics such as:

Since actinomycosis can persist for a long time, treatment duration may be anywhere between 8 weeks to more than a year. 

Sometimes, a surgeon may drain an abscess or remove an affected part. Actinomycosis starts in the soft tissues of the body, but can contaminate nearby bone if left untreated. If contamination lives in the nasal sinuses, you may require surgery to remove the affected bone and tissue. After this, you may require a 3-month course of antibiotics to resolve the infection. 

In some women, actinomycosis may be secondary to an intrauterine device (IUD). In such cases, they may require removal of the IUD.

Can actinomycosis be prevented?

The following may help reduce the risk of actinomycosis:

  • Avoid alcohol
  • Maintain overall health
  • Monitor long-term medical conditions
  • Practice good dental and oral health


Bowel regularity means a bowel movement every day. See Answer
Medically Reviewed on 10/26/2021
Image Source: Kateryna Kon / Getty Images