Article on Diphtheria
Diphtheria (dif-THEER-e-uh) is a serious bacterial infection, usually affecting
the mucous membranes of your nose and throat. Diphtheria typically causes a bad sore throat,
fever, swollen glands and weakness. But the hallmark sign is a thick, gray covering in the
back of your throat that can make breathing difficult. Diphtheria can also infect your skin.
Years ago, diphtheria was a leading cause of death among children. Today,
diphtheria is very rare in the United States and other developed countries thanks to
widespread vaccination against the disease.Medications are available to treat diphtheria.
However, in advanced stages, diphtheria can cause damage to your heart, kidneys and nervous
system. Even with treatment, diphtheria can be deadly — nearly one out of every 10 people
who get diphtheria die of it.
Signs and symptoms of diphtheria may include:
1.A sore throat and hoarseness
3.Swollen glands (enlarged lymph nodes) in your neck
4.A thick, gray membrane covering your throat and tonsils
5.Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing
7.Fever and chills
Signs and symptoms usually begin two to five days after a person becomes infected,
but they may take as many as 10 days to appear.Some people become infected with
diphtheria-causing bacteria, but they develop only a mild case of the illness and show no signs
or symptoms of the disease. They're said to be carriers of the disease, because they may spread
the disease without showing signs or symptoms of illness.
Skin (cutaneous) diphtheria
A second type of diphtheria can affect the skin. A wound infected with bacteria is
typically red, painful and swollen. A wound infected with diphtheria-causing bacteria also may
have patches of a sticky, gray material.Although it's more common in tropical climates,
cutaneous diphtheria also occurs in the United States, particularly among people with poor
hygiene who live in crowded conditions.
The bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae causes diphtheria. Usually the bacteria
multiply on or near the surface of the mucous membranes of the throat, where they cause
inflammation. The inflammation may spread to the voice box (larynx) and may make your throat
swell, narrowing your airway. Disease-causing strains of C. diphtheriae release a poison (toxin)
, which can also damage the heart, brain and nerves.You contract diphtheria by inhaling airborne
droplets exhaled by a person with the disease or by a carrier who has no symptoms. Diphtheria
passes from an infected person to others through:
1.Sneezing and coughing, especially in crowded living conditions (easily)
2.Contaminated personal items, such as tissues or drinking glasses that have been
used by an infected person (occasionally)
3.Contaminated household items, such as towels or toys (rarely)
1.Breathing problems. Diphtheria-causing bacteria may produce a poison (toxin).
This toxin damages tissue in the immediate area of infection — the nose and throat, for example.
This localized infection produces a tough, gray-colored membrane — which is composed of dead
cells, bacteria and other substances — on the inside of your nose and throat. This tough
membrane, or covering, is dangerous because it can obstruct breathing.
2.Heart damage. The diphtheria toxin may spread through your bloodstream and damage
other tissues in your body, such as your heart muscle. One complication of diphtheria is
inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis). Signs and symptoms of myocarditis include fever,
vague chest pain, joint pain and an abnormally fast heart rate. Damage to the heart from
myocarditis may be only slight, showing up as minor abnormalities on an electrocardiogram,
or very severe, leading to congestive heart failure and sudden death.
3.Kidney damage. The diphtheria toxin may damage the kidneys, affecting their ability
to filter wastes from the blood.
4.Nerve damage. The toxin can also cause nerve damage, targeting certain nerves such
as those to the throat, making swallowing difficult. Nerves to the arms and legs may also become
inflamed, causing muscle weakness. In severe cases, nerves that help control the muscles used
in breathing may be damaged, leading to paralysis of these muscles and trouble breathing.