What are staph infections?
Staph infections are caused by bacteria known as staphylococcus. Most infections are caused by Staphylococcus aureus.
Staph infections can attack any part of the body including skin, eyes, nails and even the inner lining of the heart.
Staph infections generally enter the body through an open wound or cut and spread to the surrounding tissue or travel through the bloodstream to internal organs like the heart or kidneys where it can become life-threatening.
What are the different types of staph infections?
Various names are used to describe staph infections and some are also used to describe strep infections.
Folliculitis - This is a superficial infection of the hair follicles that produces small white-headed pustules. This infection generally gets caused by shaving or rubbing against clothes.
Boils - These can occur when a staph infection enters the deepest part of the hair follicle causing a pus-filled, painful inflammation. Boils generally form on the face, neck, buttocks and armpits. Boils that appear on the eyelid
Furunculosis is the condition when several separate boils form at the same time.
Carbuncle - This is a group of connected boils that form deep under the skin. Carbuncles generally occur on the upper back or nape of the neck and are more common in men than women.
Impetigo - This refers to patches of small blisters and pustules that become crusty after breaking open.
Cellulitis - This staph infection is uncommon but more serious and occurs in the deeper layers of the skin. It starts with inflammation and redness around a cut or sore and then slowly spreads into nearby tissues. Red lines may connect the infection to nearby lymph nodes which can also become infected and swell up. This is known as lymphadenitis.
Scalded skin syndrome is a staph infection which affects infants and children. In this case there is a blistering, peeling rash
Conjunctivitis - This is very contagious and causes eyes to redden and swell up. Crust forms closing the eye at night.
Blepharitis affects the edges of the eyelids and can also cause red, crusty eyes.
Paronychia - This affects the edges of fingernails causing swelling and pus filled blisters
Mastitis - Nursing mothers can develop staph infections in the breast through cracked, sore nipples causing painful breast abscesses
Tampon use can also cause a life threatening staph infection called toxic shock syndrome
Staph infections can spread through the bloodstream to bones and joints where abscesses may form and fill with pus causing joints to become arthritic.
A staph infections can cause pneumonia if it spreads to the lungs, kidney infections if it spreads to the kidneys. When a staph infection attacks the inner lining of the heart, it can cause endocarditis which can cause permanent heart damage. People taking an antibiotic for other illnesses can develop staph infections in the colon.
What causes staph infections?
The bacteria causing staph infections are commonly found in the nose, mouth, rectum and genital area. People can carry staphylococci in their noses without any symptoms of illness. The bacteria are harmless until they enter the body through a break in the skin. Bacteria entering the body through contaminated food can cause food poisoning
Staph infections are easy to pick up in a hospital after a surgical procedure. Therefore antibiotics are often prescribed to patients before and after surgery.