Diphtheria

Definition

Diphtheria is a life-threatening infection that spreads easily. The infection most commonly attacks the tonsils, throat, and nose.Diphtheria is a medical emergency that requires immediate care from your doctor. Not everyone who gets diphtheria shows signs of illness, though they may be able to infect others. The sooner it is treated, the better the outcome will be.Despite availability of vaccines for prevention of diphtheria, cases of diphtheria are on the rise.

Causes

Diphtheria is caused specific bacteria. The infection spreads from person to person through contact with:
  • Droplets of moisture that are coughed or sneezed into the air by an infected person and breathed in by a non-infected person
  • Personal items, such as tissues or drinking glasses, that have been used by an infected person
  • Skin that is infected with diphtheria

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of getting diphtheria include:
  • Having never been immunized against diphtheria
  • Not having had a booster dose in the past ten years
  • Having a compromised immune system

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of diphtheria usually begin 2 to 5 days after a person is infected. The most obvious sign of diphtheria is a gray covering on the back of the throat. The covering can detach and block the airway. If left untreated, the bacteria can produce a poison that spreads through the body causing damage to the heart, nerves, and kidneys.Symptoms include:
  • Sore throat and painful swallowing
  • Fever up to 103°F
  • Gray covering on the back of the throat
  • Cough, possibly a barking cough
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Weakness
  • Skin infection
Swollen Lymph Nodes
Swollen lymph node
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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