Staph infection refers to any bacterial infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) bacteria, a group of bacteria that belongs to the Staphylococcus genus family.
Staphylococcus genus is a group of bacteria present harmlessly in the air, water and on certain human body parts: Pharynx, armpit, perineum, vagina, gastrointestinal tract, nasal passages, sweat glands and the skin. Staphylococcus genus includes at least thirty-one species, and each one can cause different types of infection. The species most often responsible for infection, however, is staphylococcus aureus.
Staph infections occur when there is proliferation or an uncontrolled growth of S. aureus in a location of your body. The proliferation is favored by alcoholism, malnutrition, diabetes mellitus, weekend immune system, surgical complications, hospitalization (nosocomial infection), and presence of foreign bodies in your organism: prostheses, needle, etc.
Although rare, in people with chronic disease or compromised immune system, staph infections can spread to the bloodstream, urinary tract, heart or lungs and cause major health problem. In addition, Staph infections are contagious and can be transmitted directly or indirectly. Although individual at any age can be affected, staphylococcal infections occur more frequently in young children and elderly.
Staph Infection Symptoms
Symptoms of staph infection tend to vary from one person to another and according to the organ affected. In a healthy person, the infection can cause minor symptoms, in people with health issues or weakened immune system however, the infection can be severe and life threatening.
When the staphylococcus overgrowth is localized on your skin, the infection can cause:
- Boils (furuncle), pus-filled lumps
- Cellulitis, bacterial infection of your skin and the soft tissues underneath
- Impetigo, contagious skin infection characterized by vesicles, pustules and yellowish crusts
- Paronychia, a form of inflammatory infection around the base of the nail fold
- Scalded skin syndrome, also known as Pemphigus neonatorum or Ritter’s disease, is a form of staphylococcal infection characterized by peeling skin
Staph infection in the gastrointestinal tract can lead to:
- Abdominal cramps.
Septic arthritis – it is not uncommon to develop septic arthritis if you have staph infection. In this case, the bacterial infection will likely to cause fever, shaking chills, and pain and swelling in your:
Staphylococcal toxic shock syndrome (TSS) – Although rare, staph infection can be associated with staphylococcal toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a serious illness caused by production of toxin by certain species of Staphylococcus bacteria. TSS is very rare among men; it affects mostly women, especially during their menstruation or a few weeks after surgery. Staphylococcal toxic shock syndrome can cause symptoms:
- Muscle aches
- Malaise or discomfort
- Kidney or and liver failure
- Redness of eyes, mouth, throat
- Rash resembling a sunburn, which often followed by a shedding of the outer layers of the skin.
Without an appropriate treatment, the infection can spread to surrounding tissue and become chronic; multiplies recurrent are also possible. In addition, death can occur among patients with serious health problems such as cancer victims and HIV/AID patients.
Staph bacteria can live harmlessly in your body for years. Infection occurs when, due to certain circumstances, the bacteria multiply uncontrollably. Another way that you may have staph infection is by contamination from an object or a person already infected. Some factors and risk of staph infection include:
- Surgical wounds
- Weakened immune systems
- Contamination from a person suffering from the infection
- Working in hospitals or healthcare facilities such as nursing homes and dialysis centers.
Note: Staph infections are more frequent among:
- Military recruits
- Pacific Islanders
- Alaskan Natives
- Male Homosexual.
Usually, staph infection diagnosis is based on observation of clinical signs of the infection. Your doctor will examine the symptoms of the disease to determine if there is an overgrowth of Staphylococcus aureus or suspicious of any Staphylococcal disease. In severe cases, however, when the infection invades the bloodstream, lungs or heart, specialized tests may be recommended.
Staph Infection Treatment
Staphylococcal infection occurs on the skin often requires simple applications of antiseptics. Severe forms are treated by antibiotics such as penicillin and methicillin. Some staph infections, however, can be resistant to one or more antibiotics. If this problem happens, your doctor will chose other medications to fight the infection. Those medications are always stronger, and often accompanied by serious side effects.
Most common antibiotic used to treat drug resistant staphylococcus aureus is vancomycin. Rarely, surgery can be necessary; surgical intervention is performed when there are abscesses or serious complications.
Staph Infection Prevention
In hospital, the prevention of staph infections consists mainly on disinfection and eradication of microbial sites and taking of preventive antibiotics before surgery. For individual prevention, these precautionary measures can be very helpful:
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Boost your Immune System
- Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables
- Keep your hands clean by washing them thoroughly with soap and water
- Keep your wounds clean and covered with a bandage until healed
- Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages
- Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.