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Staphylococcal Infections

What are Staphylococcal (staph) infections?

Staphylococcus (staph) is a group of bacteria. There are more than 30 types. A type called Staphylococcus aureus causes most infections.

Staph bacteria can cause many different types of infections, including

  • Skin infections, which are the most common types of staph infections
  • Bacteremia, an infection of the bloodstream. This can lead to sepsis, a very serious immune response to infection.
  • Bone infections
  • Endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves
  • Food poisoning
  • Pneumonia
  • Toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a life-threatening condition caused by toxins from certain types of bacteria
What causes staph infections?

Some people carry staph bacteria on their skin or in their noses, but they do not get an infection. But if they get a cut or wound, the bacteria can enter the body and cause an infection.

Staph bacteria can spread from person to person. They can also spread on objects, such as towels, clothing, door handles, athletic equipment, and remotes. If you have staph and do not handle food properly when you are preparing it, you can also spread staph to others.

Who is at risk for staph infections?

Anyone can develop a staph infection, but certain people are at greater risk, including those who

  • Have a chronic condition such as diabetes, cancer, vascular disease, eczema, and lung disease
  • Have a weakened immune system, such as from HIV/AIDS, medicines to prevent organ rejection, or chemotherapy
  • Had surgery
  • Use a catheter, breathing tube, or feeding tube
  • Are on dialysis
  • Inject illegal drugs
  • Do contact sports, since you may have skin-to-skin contact with others or share equipment
What are the symptoms of staph infections?

The symptoms of a staph infection depend on the type of infection:

  • Skin infections can look like pimples or boils. They may be red, swollen, and painful. Sometimes there is pus or other drainage. They can turn into impetigo, which turns into a crust on the skin, or cellulitis, a swollen, red area of skin that feels hot.
  • Bone infections can cause pain, swelling, warmth, and redness in the infected area. You may also have chills and a fever.
  • Endocarditis causes some flu-like symptoms: fever, chills, and fatigue. It also causes symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and fluid buildup in your arms or legs.
  • Food poisoning typically causes nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and a fever. If you lose too many fluids, you may also become dehydrated.
  • Pneumonia symptoms include a high fever, chills, and cough that doesn't get better. You may also have chest pain and shortness of breath.
  • Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) causes high fever, sudden low blood pressure, vomiting, diarrhea, and confusion. You may have a sunburn-like rash somewhere on your body. TSS can lead to organ failure.
How are staph infections diagnosed?

Your health care provider will do a physical exam and ask about your symptoms. Often, providers can tell if you have a staph skin infection by looking at it. To check for other types of staph infections, providers may do a culture, with a skin scraping, tissue sample, stool sample, or throat or nasal swabs. There may be other tests, such as imaging tests, depending on the type of infection.

What are the treatments for staph infections?

Treatment for staph infections is antibiotics. Depending on the type of infection, you may get a cream, ointment, medicines (to swallow), or intravenous (IV). If you have an infected wound, your provider might drain it. Sometimes you may need surgery for bone infections.

Some staph infections, such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), are resistant to many antibiotics. There are still certain antibiotics that can treat these infections.

Can staph infections be prevented?

Certain steps can help to prevent staph infections:

  • Use good hygiene, including washing your hands often
  • Don't share towels, sheets, or clothing with someone who has a staph infection
  • It's best not to share athletic equipment. If you do need to share, make sure that it properly cleaned and dried before you use it.
  • Practice food safety, including not preparing food for others when you have a staph infection
  • If you have a cut or wound, keep it covered

Steroids

You may have heard of anabolic steroids, which can have harmful effects. But there's another type of steroid - sometimes called a corticosteroid - that treats a variety of problems. These steroids are similar to hormones that your adrenal glands make to fight stress associated with illnesses and injuries. They reduce inflammation and affect the immune system.

You may need to take corticosteroids to treat

  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Autoimmune diseases such as lupus and multiple sclerosis
  • Skin conditions such as eczema and rashes
  • Some kinds of cancer

Steroids are strong medicines, and they can have side effects, including weakened bones and cataracts. Because of this, you usually take them for as short a time as possible.

Tanning

Can a tan be healthy?

Some people think that tanning gives them a healthy glow. But tanning, either outdoors or indoors with a tanning bed, is not healthy at all. It exposes you to harmful rays and puts you at risk for health problems such as melanoma and other skin cancers.

What are UV rays, and how do they affect the skin?

Sunlight travels to earth as a mixture of both visible and invisible rays. Some of the rays are harmless to people. But one kind, ultraviolet (UV) rays, can cause problems. They are a form of radiation. UV rays do help your body make vitamin D, but too much exposure damages your skin. Most people can get the vitamin D that they need with only about 5 to 15 minutes of sun exposure two to three times a week.

There are three types of UV rays. Two of them, UVA and UVB, can reach the earth's surface and affect your skin. Using a tanning bed also exposes you to UVA and UVB.

UVB rays can cause sunburn. UVA rays can travel more deeply into the skin than UVB rays. When your skin is exposed to UVA, it tries to protect itself from further damage. It does this by making more melanin, which is the skin pigment that makes your skin darker. That's what gives you a tan. This means that your tan is a sign of skin damage.

What are the health risks of tanning?

Since tanning means overexposure to UV rays, it can damage your skin and cause health problems such as

  • Premature skin aging, which can cause your skin to become thickened, leathery, and wrinkled. You may also have dark spots on your skin. These happen because long-term exposure to UV rays makes your skin less elastic. The more sun exposure you have, the earlier your skin ages.
  • Skin cancers, including melanoma. This can happen because the UV light damages the DNA of your skin cells and interferes with your body's ability to fight the cancer.
  • Actinic keratosis, a thick, scaly patch of skin that usually forms on areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, scalp, back of the hands, or chest. It can eventually become cancerous.
  • Eye damage, including cataracts and photokeratitis (snow blindness)
  • A weakened immune system, which can increase your sensitivity to sunlight, decrease the effects of immunizations, and cause you to have reactions to certain medicines.
What should I do to protect my skin from UV rays?
  • Limit sun exposure. Try to stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when its rays are strongest. But remember that you still get sun exposure when you are outside on cloudy days or are in the shade.
  • Use sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher. It should also be a broad spectrum sunscreen, which means that it gives you both UVA and UVB protection. If you have very light skin, use SPF 30 or higher. Apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes before going outside, and reapply it at least every 2 hours.
  • Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side.
  • Wear a hat. You can get the best protection with a wide-brimmed hat that is made out of a tightly woven fabric, such as canvas.
  • Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection.

It is also important to check your skin once a month. If you do see any new or changing spots or moles, go see your health care provider.

Isn't indoor tanning safer than tanning in the sun?

Indoor tanning is not better than tanning in the sun; it also exposes you to UV rays and damages your skin. Tanning beds use UVA light, so they expose you to a higher concentration of UVA rays than you would get by tanning in the sun. Tanning lights also expose you to some UVB rays.

Some people think that getting a "base tan" in a tanning salon can protect you when you go in the sun. But a "base tan" causes damage to your skin and will not prevent you from getting sunburn when you go outside.

Indoor tanning is particularly dangerous for younger people. You have a higher risk of melanoma if you started doing indoor tanning while you were a teen or young adult.

Some research shows that frequent tanning may even be addictive. This can be dangerous because the more often you tan, the more damage you do to your skin.

Are there safer ways to look tan?

There are other ways to look tan, but they are not all safe:

  • Tanning pills have a color additive that turns your skin orange after you take them. But they can be dangerous and are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • Sunless tanners have no known risk for skin cancer, but you do have to be careful. Most spray tans, lotions, and gels use DHA, a color additive that makes your skin look tan. DHA is considered safe for use on the outside of your body by the FDA. You need to make sure it doesn't get into your nose, eyes, or mouth. If you use a spray tan, be careful not to breathe in the spray. Also, remember that these "tans" do not protect you from UV rays when you go outside.

Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence (UI) is loss of bladder control. Symptoms can range from mild leaking to uncontrollable wetting. It can happen to anyone, but it becomes more common with age. Women experience UI twice as often as men.

Most bladder control problems happen when muscles are too weak or too active. If the muscles that keep your bladder closed are weak, you may have accidents when you sneeze, laugh or lift a heavy object. This is stress incontinence. If bladder muscles become too active, you may feel a strong urge to go to the bathroom when you have little urine in your bladder. This is urge incontinence or overactive bladder. There are other causes of incontinence, such as prostate problems and nerve damage.

Treatment depends on the type of problem you have and what best fits your lifestyle. It may include simple exercises, medicines, special devices or procedures prescribed by your doctor, or surgery.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Usher Syndrome

Usher syndrome is an inherited disease that causes serious hearing loss and retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disorder that causes your vision to get worse over time. It is the most common condition that affects both hearing and vision.

There are three types of Usher syndrome:

  • People with type I are deaf from birth and have severe balance problems from a young age. Vision problems usually start by age 10 and lead to blindness.
  • People with type II have moderate to severe hearing loss and normal balance. Vision problems start in the early teens and get worse more slowly than in type I.
  • People with type III are born with normal hearing and near-normal balance but develop vision problems and then hearing loss.

There is no cure. Tools such as hearing aids or cochlear implants can help some people. Training such as Braille instruction, low-vision services, or auditory training can also help.

NIH: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders