Diphtheria: Cause, Symptoms, Treatment

Overview

Diphtheria is an infectious disease caused by Corynebacterium diphtheria, which primarily infects the throat and upper airways, then produces a toxin affecting other organs.

It is a type of bacterial infection which can spread through contact with an infected person or object, so it can be easily transmitted between people.

It is a serious and life-threatening disease, and nearly one out of 10 people who get diphtheria will die from it.

Most cases of diphtheria happen among unvaccinated or inadequately vaccinated people.

Cause

Diphtheria results from Corynebacterium diphtheria infection.

Symptoms

The symptoms of diphtheria often appear within two to five days after the infection. Some people don’t have any symptoms, but others have mild symptoms that are similar to those who catch cold.

The most visible and common symptom is a thick, gray coating on the throat and tonsils.

Some other symptoms include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • swollen glands in the neck
  • a loud, barking cough
  • a sore throat
  • bluish skin
  • drooling
  • a general feeling of uneasiness or discomfort

Additional symptoms may occur as the infection progresses, including:

  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • changes in vision
  • slurred speech
  • signs of shock, such as pale and cold skin, sweating, and a rapid heartbeat

Diagnosis

The doctor is likely to perform a physical examination to check swollen lymph nodes, and ask patients about their medical history and symptoms.

If the doctor sees a gray coating on the patient’s throat or tonsils, diphtheria will be confirmed.

For further diagnosis, the doctor will take a sample of the affected tissue and send it to a laboratory for testing.

Treatment

Diphtheria is a serious infectious disease, but it is highly preventable with vaccines.

The diphtheria-tetanus toxoids-acellular pertussis, or (DTap) vaccine is a series of several shots, the first of which can be applied to infants when they are six weeks old. The remaining shots are given on schedule throughout childhood.

When people contract diphtheria, they need prompt treatment to ensure they will get better and not infect others. The treatment includes administration of the diphtheria antitoxin as well a course of antibiotics (usually erythromycinor penicillin).

Keyword: diphtheria.

Related Posts:

Diphtheria and Tetanus Toxoids Vaccine: Uses

DTaP Vaccine: Basics to Know

Erythromycin: Use & Side Effect

Penicillins: Uses & Side effects

Laryngitis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.