A staphylococcal (or staph) infection is a skin infection caused by staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Strangely enough, most healthy adults actually carry the bacteria on their skin all the time, near their nose, mouth, and genitals. However, an infection doesn’t occur until the skin is punctured or cut and becomes infected with the bacteria.
The infections can range from simple and easily treatable to life threatening, depending on the strength of the infection, how deep it goes, how fast spreads, and how treatable it is with antibiotics. As a result, signs and symptoms of staph infections vary widely, depending on the location and severity of the infection; from food poisoning to the life-threatening toxic shock syndrome. Below is a list of a variety of infections and illnesses caused by staph infections.
Boils and Skin Abscesses
The furuncle and carbuncle are types of boils caused by staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The furuncle is used to refer to a typical boil that occurs within a hair follicle. A carbuncle is a term used to represent a larger abscess that forms a hardened lump that can be felt beneath the skin. Smaller boils can be treated at home, ideally as soon as they begin to form, with heat treatment. Larger, more bothersome, boils may require a visit to the clinic.
This bacterial skin infection is caused by either the streptococcus or staphylococcus aureus bacteria coming into contact with an open sore or wound. Commonly seen in children and the elderly, it causes red sores that can break open, ooze fluid, and develop a yellowish-brown scab. Impetigo is contagious and can be spread to others or throughout parts of infected individual’s bodies by scratching. Impetigo is treated with antibiotics, both with creams and via medication.
More Serious Afflictions
Bacteremia is the presence of viable bacteria in the blood stream and occurs when staph bacteria, or similar bacteria, enters a person’s bloodstream. A persistent fever is the first warning sign but no treatment is necessary unless the afflicted are at risk for infection, such as those with heart valve defects or whose immune systems are suppressed.
Toxic shock syndrome
This is a life-threatening condition that occurs from toxins produced by some strains of the staph bacteria. It’s been linked to the use of certain types of tampons, skin wounds and surgery. The symptoms include: high fever, nausea and vomiting, rash on palms and soles of feet, confusion, muscle aches, seizures, and headache. If toxic shock syndrome is even suspected in the least, rush immediately to hospital’s urgent care or emergency department.
Staph infections are often the cause of septic arthritis. The bacterium targets large joints (hips, ankles, knees, wrists, elbows) and causes the joint to swell and product severe pain. A fever and chills usually accompanies the pain and swelling. Young children and older adults are the most likely to develop septic arthritis. If treated with antibiotics within a week of first symptoms most people make a full, quick recovery.
When to drop everything and go see a doctor
Whatever your self-diagnosis, if any of the following symptoms are present go see a doctor.
- Pus-filled blisters
- Any red or irritated/painful skin
- Skin infections are being passed between family members
- Two or more family members have skin infections at the same time