Staph: Causes, Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

Staph infection is caused by Staphylococcus bacteria, commonly called as staph bacteria. This bacteria is commonly found on the skin around nose, mouth, genitals or anal area of even healthy individuals. These bacteria do not cause any problem mostly or result in relatively minor skin infections. But this infection can prove to be deadly if it invades deeper into the body by entering into bloodstream, joints, bones, lungs and even heart.

Staph infection usually begins with a little cut, which then gets infected with staph bacteria. It can look like a honey-yellow crusting on the skin.

Staph infections can range from a simple boil to antibiotic-resistant infections to even flesh-eating infections in the worst case scenarios. The main difference between these infection lies in the strength of the infection itself, how deep it has invaded the body, how fast has it spread and to what degree it is treatable with antibiotic drugs.

One of the most common type of staph infection that involves skin is called cellulitis, which affects the skin’s deeper layers. This is generally seen in people with weaker immune systems and people with diabetes are at high risk of the same. It is treatable with antibiotics, though.

Causes of Staph Infection

A lot of people who carry staph bacteria actually never develop staph infections. It usually develops in people who have been carrying the bacteria for a longer duration. These bacteria can also be transmitted from person to person, and hence staph infections can result from coming in contact with an infected person, or even an inanimate object touched by an infected person.

Types of Staph Infections

Staph infections can be caused by two bacteria strains of the genus Staphylococcus. These two strains are staphylococcus aureus strains and Staphylococcus epidermidis strains.

  1. Aureus can infect almost any organism. It first infects the skin and its structures, including for example, hair follicles and sebaceous glands, or invades the skin through cuts and abrasions or other damages. Most of these infections are stay relatively limited to sty, boil, carbuncle or furuncle. But if remain untreated, they may spread to other skin areas and result in cellulitis, folloculitis and impetigo. If these bacteria reach the bloodstream and thereby end up in many different body sites, they can cause wound infections, abscesses, endocarditis, osteomylitis and pneumonia. These can cause severe harm to the body and can even prove to be fatal.
  2. Epidermis strains however do not usually cause infections, but may result in infections in people with weaker or suppressed immune systems or patients having any type of indwelling catheter or implanted device.

Symptoms of Staph Infections

Signs and symptoms of staph infections vary widely depending upon the are infected as well as the intensity of the infection.

Skin infections caused by staph bacteria

Skin infections caused by staph bacteria include:

  • Boils.This is the most common type of staph infection. It develops as a pocket of pus that in a hair follicle or oil gland. The skin over the infected area is seen to become red and swollen in appearance and can be painful as well. If this sort of a boil breaks open, pus usually starts to drain. The common sites of such boils are under the arms or around the groin area or buttocks.
  • Impetigo.It is a painful and often contagious rash which can be caused by staph bacteria. It usually takes the form of large blisters that tend to ooze fluid and develop a honey-coloured crust.
  • Cellulitis is an infection in the deeper layers of skin which cause redness and swelling on the surface of the skin. Oozing sores and ulcers may develop due to this.
  • Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome. Toxins produced as a result of a staph infection may cause staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome. It mostly affects babies and children and is usually coupled with fever, rash or even blisters at times. When these blisters break, the top layer of the skin peels off, leaving a red, raw surface that looks like as if it were a burn.

Food poisoning caused by staph bacteria

One of the most common causes of food poisoning is stand bacteria. Symptoms of the same come quickly, usually within a few hours of having contaminated food, and they disappear as quickly too, often lasting only half  a day or so. A staph infection caused by food does not usually result in fever and the commonly noticeable signs of the same are nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration and a low blood pressure.

Septicemia due to staph bacteria infestation

Septicemia occurs when the staph bacteria enters a person’s bloodstream, hence is also called blood poisoning. The common symptoms of the same are fever and low blood pressure. The bacteria can travel into deeper locations within the body via the infected blood stream and affect internal organs, including brain, heart and lungs. It may also reach to bones and muscles and surgically implanted devices like cardiac pacemakers and artificial joints.

Toxic shock syndrome as a result of staph bacteria

This life-threatening condition is caused due to toxins produced by some strains of staph bacteria and usually develops suddenly coupled with high fever, nausea, vomiting, rashes on palms and soles that resemble sunburns, confusion, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and muscle aches.

Septic arthritis caused by staph infection

Septic arthritis can often be caused by a staph infection. The bacteria generally target the knees, shoulders and hips. It may also target toes and fingers and result in joint swelling, severe pain in the affected joint and fever.

When to Visit a Doctor

It is advisable to visit a doctor if red and irritated rashes are seen in skin, pus filled blisters or boils pop up, or a high fever is experienced. You may also seek a doctor if two or more family members have contacted skin infection at the same time or through coming in contact with each other.

Diagnosis of Staph Infection

In order to diagnose staph infection, your doctor will first prefer doing a close physical examination of the infected area and take a closer look at the rashes, boils and blisters so caused. He may also collect a tissue from the infected area or nasal secretions in order to determine the presence of staph bacteria.

Treatment of Staph Infection

Treatment of a staph infection may include:

  • Antibiotics like cephalosporins, nafcillin, sulfa drugs or vancomycin are usually prescribed by the doctor after identification of the staph bacteria behind the infection and deciding which one of these medicines would work the best.
  • In case of a skin infection caused by staph bacteria, the doctor would most likely make an incision in the sore and drain out the pus or the fluid that has been collected in it.
  • If the staph infection involves a prosthetic or an implanted device, the device has to be removed as soon as possible. Surgery may be required for the same based on the type of the device.

Prevention of Staph Infection

Some commonsense precautions can help lower your risk of developing staph infections:

  • Washing your hands carefully is the best defense against germs. If washing hands is not possible at times or your hands aren’t visibly dirty, you may resort to using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Keep your wound clean and covered with sterile bandages until they dry out and heal to minimize the risk of catching the infection through open wounds.
  • Try to avoid sharing your personal care items like towels, sheets, clothing, razors and athletic equipments. Remember not to give these items to anyone and do not even use theirs!
  • Wash your clothes and bedding in hot water whenever possible. Use bleach on bleach-safe materials as well.
  • Wash your hands properly before handling food and cooking. If food is to be kept out, assure it stays either hot at above 60C, and cold foods at 4.4C or below. Minimise refrigerating leftovers.

This was all you needed to know for a basic understanding of Staph infections. If you or your near and dear ones ever come in contact with Staph, you know what to do! We hope you found this article useful. Thank you for reading!

Gazal Sancheti

%d bloggers like this: