Learn how to recognize staph infection symptoms.
Staph infections are caused by strains of the bacteria Staphylococcus, which -- according to the Centers for Disease Control -- lives on the skin and in the noses of about 25 to 30 percent of healthy adults. When Staphylococcus enters the body through anything from a simple cut to a complex surgery, it can lead to infection. Staph infections can take many different forms and range in severity from fairly minor skin infections to life-threatening internal infections.
The most common staph infection symptoms are relatively minor skin infections that look like pimples or boils. While these infections may be uncomfortable (redness, swelling, and pus are common), they can be treated with antibiotics or drained by a medical professional. It is very important to seek medical treatment for a suspected staph infection; when left untreated, staph infections can lead to a skin-crusting called impetigo and a tissue inflammation called cellulitis.
There are three different varieties of impetigo. Impetigo contagiosa, the most common, causes red sores, most often on the face, that rupture and crust over. Swollen lymph nodes in the area of the sores are also common. The sores may be itchy and are highly contagious, but should not cause pain or leave permanent scarring. Bullous impetigo most often affects children under two years of age, and while the sores -- fluid-filled blisters found on the body -- may last longer than those of other types of impetigo, they are painless. Ecthyma, the most serious form of impetigo, is located deeper in the skin and causes swollen lymph glands and ulcers covered with a heavy grayish crust, sometimes leaving scarring. In rare cases, impetigo can lead to scalded skin syndrome, most common in children under two. The primary symptom of scalded skin syndrome is the Nikolsky sign, in which the inflamed skin rubs off easily and leaves a raw, wet area.
Cellulitis is a connective tissue inflammation caused by staph infection that can lead to life-threatening illness if left untreated. The symptoms of cellulitis include hot, red, swollen and sensitive skin, most commonly on the lower legs; fever, red spots on the affected area and, less often, blisters.
Staph infection can cause mastitis in women who are nursing infants. Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast with symptoms including sensitive, red, swollen and warm breasts, pain while breastfeeding, general malaise and high fever.
Staph infection can also result in more serious conditions like pneumonia, toxic shock syndrome, blood infection and urinary tract infection, all of which present a wide range of symptoms. Patients suffering from bacterial pneumonia experience chills, sweats, fever, chest pain and a cough that produces phlegm. Toxic shock syndrome symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting, fever, chills, aches and rashes. Blood infection, called sepsis, is associated with fever, chills, disorientation or agitation, joint pain, rapid heartbeat, rash and less-frequent urination. The symptoms of urinary tract infections include the urge to urinate, passing small, bloody or cloudy amounts of urine, and a painful or burning sensation while urinating. These conditions are serious and can progress to life-threatening illness if left untreated. It is important to contact your health care provider if you exhibit any symptoms of staph infection.