What is diphtheria?
Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that affects the mucous membranes of the throat and nose. This infectious disease is caused by bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae, which releases toxins. It is a highly contagious disease and can be life-threatening if not treated well. There are two types of diphtheria based on the areas that are affected:
- Respiratory diphtheria: In this type of diphtheria, the bacterium affects the nose, throat, and tonsils. This can lead to serious health complications such as heart failure and coma.
- Cutaneous diphtheria: This one is a rare health condition and it affects the skin. It is often seen in people who live in unhygienic conditions and is quite contagious.
In some severe cases, the toxins may reach other organs such as the heart, kidney, or brain and damage them. This can lead to fatal complications such as paralysis, myocarditis, and kidney failure. Thus, immediate consultation and timely treatment are extremely necessary.
Generally, the symptoms of diphtheria appear within 4 or 5 days of the infection. The signs usually depend on the particular strain of bacteria that affect the person. Some of the most common diphtheria symptoms include:
- Thick and grey coating on throat or tonsils
- Fever and chills
- Swollen glands in the neck
- A sore throat
- Nasal discharge
- Difficulty in breathing
- Troubles in swallowing
If you suffer from cutaneous diphtheria, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Pain and swelling in the skin
- Ulcers covered by a grey membrane
- Rashes and sores
Who is at risk?
Diphtheria is a rare infection, but there are some factors that can increase your chances of getting infected. Typically, toddlers and people over age 60 who are more prone to diphtheria. Some other diphtheria risk factors include:
- Late vaccinations
- Poor personal hygiene
- Crowded living condition
- Lack of immunizations
- Travel history of areas endemic for diphtheria
- Immune system disorder, such as AIDS
- Medical history of chronic health conditions
- Sharing utensils with a person suffering from diphtheria
The main reason behind his infection is the bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Once they enter the human body, these bacteria multiples in the surface of the throat. The bacteria usually spread through airborne droplets and contaminated items. Other than this, diphtheria is causedby transmission from an infected person who has not received any treatment.
How is diphtheria diagnosed?
Diphtheria diagnosis can include various tests and examinations for determining the condition. Here are a few things you can expect when you visit the doctor after experiencing symptoms of diphtheria:
- Physical Examination: The doctor will begin the diagnosis with a physical exam to check for swelling or the thick grey membrane inside the throat. They will also ask for your health history and other symptoms you may be experiencing.
- Swab Tests: If the doctor suspects that you have diphtheria, a sample of the affected tissue will be collected for testing. A throat culture can also be a part of this diphtheria test.
How is diphtheria treated?
Earlier, diphtheria was a common health condition. But now there are various treatments and vaccines that can prevent diphtheria. The most common method used for diphtheria treatment is medication. As per the severity and condition of diphtheria, doctors may prescribe medicines to stop the toxin made by the bacteria from damaging the organs. You may also be given medicines for killing the bacteria. It is advised that you must complete your treatment to ensure that your body recovers completely so that the risk of transmission can be avoided as well. To ensure the best diphtheria cure, consult an otolaryngologist who is a specialist in treating diseases and disorders of ear, nose, and throat (ENT). Here at Care.Fit, we have a dedicated team of otolaryngologists who can help you with the best treatment available. You can book an online appointment with them through our website or app for hassle-free medical care.
How can diphtheria be prevented?
Prevention of diphtheria can be done through vaccination and antibiotics. The vaccine for diphtheria is called DTaP and is usually given along with vaccines of tetanus and pertussis. These are usually taken during childhood. Other than this, some lifestyle changes can also help in reducing the risk of diphtheria:
- Avoid sharing food and dishes with an infected person
- Pay attention to personal hygiene
- Consult a doctor at the onset of symptoms
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