Actinomycosis: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help
Actinomycosis is a long-standing infection caused by a species of bacteria named actinomyces israilii. The infection is severe in nature but usually progresses at a snail's pace.
Actinomycosis: Incidence, age and sex
Actinomycosis may occur in any age group with an increased prevalence in middle age. Men are more prone to acquiring the infection than women.
Signs and symptoms of actinomycosis: Diagnosis
Actinomycosis affects several organs of the body but it most commonly occurs on the face and neck. Other sites involved are liver, intestines, lungs, chest wall, brain, female genital tract, ears and nose. The infection causes pus collection or abscess. These abscesses are the characteristic feature of actinomycosis. In some instances where the face and neck are affected, these abscess spread through the tissue and opens out onto the external surface of the skin. Such pus discharging tracts are called sinuses. Apart from fever and pus collection, other clinical features differ from site to site.
Actinomycosis in the abdominal region may present as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and weight loss. Similarly actinomycosis in the region of lungs may present as chest pain, cough with sputum and breathlessness. Likewise, a woman suffering from actinomycosis of vagina may complain of vaginal bleeding and discharge along with pelvic pain. This occurs mainly on the face including the mouth and neck. Small, red painful swellings are seen in the above mentioned sites. These swellings have yellowish coloured pus inside them.
Causes and prevention of actinomycosis
Actinomycosis is caused by actinomyces israilii which is an anaerobic bacterium, normally residing in the superficial lining of mouth, throat, intestines and female genital tract. It is otherwise quite harmless. Any kind of trauma to the mucosal lining where the bacteria is residing act as a triggering factor, enabling it to enter deeper layers of tissue, and thus leading to infection. Such triggering factors include dental treatments, poor dental hygiene, surgical procedures in mouth or abdomen and foreign body like intrauterine contraceptive device inside vagina. Moreover certain conditions like AIDS, anti-cancer drugs, radiotherapy, and tuberculosis may lower the defence mechanism of the body, leading to increased susceptibility to the infection.
Complications in incidence of actinomycosis, are fairly uncommon. Such complications may depend upon the site of affliction and are quite severe. Actinomycosis of the lungs can end up as pneumonia or as a lung abscess or in extreme cases, pus discharging sinuses in the chest wall. The infection may spread to the brain causing brain abscess or meningitis.
The infection can be confirmed by some lab tests which show up the offending bacteria in affected tissues of the body. Imaging modalities like CT and MRI scan may also help in corroborating such diagnosis. The patient once diagnosed, is required to take long-term antibiotics. These antibiotics can either be taken in tablet form or injectible formulations. Surgical intervention like abscess drainage is considered in severe infections which are not controlled by antibiotics. It is advisable to maintain good oral hygiene in cases affected with actinomycosis of mouth. Recovery seems to be absolute provided adequate treatment has been meted out timely.