Actinomyces

Overview

Actinomycosis is a long-term (chronic) bacterial infection that commonly affects the face and neck.

What are the symptoms of Actinomycosis?

  • Draining sores in the skin, especially on the chest wall from lung infection with Actinomyces
  • Fever
  • Minimal or no pain
  • Swelling or a hard, red to reddish-purple lump on the face or upper neck
  • Weight loss

What causes Actinomycosis?

Actinomycosis is usually caused by an anaerobic bacteria called Actinomyces israelii, which is a common and normally not disease-causing (nonpathogenic) organism found in the nose and throat. Because of the bacteria’s normal location in the nose and throat, actinomycosis most commonly appears in the face and neck. However, the infection can sometimes occur in the chest (pulmonary actinomycosis), abdomen, pelvis, or other areas of the body. The infection is not contagious.
Symptoms occur when the bacteria enters the facial tissues after trauma, surgery, or infection. A common triggering causes is dental abscess or oral surgery. The infection has also been seen in certain women who have had an intrauterine device (IUD) to prevent pregnancy. Once in the tissue, it forms an abscess, producing a hard, red to reddish-purple lump, often on the jaw, from which comes the condition’s common name, “lumpy jaw.”
Eventually, the abscess breaks through the skin surface to produce a draining sinus tract.

Who is at highest risk?

Actinomycosis is usually caused by an anaerobic bacteria called Actinomyces israelii, which is a common and normally not disease-causing (nonpathogenic) organism found in the nose and throat.Because of the bacteria’s normal location in the nose and throat, actinomycosis most commonly appears in the face and neck. However, the infection can sometimes occur in the chest (pulmonary actinomycosis), abdomen, pelvis, or other areas of the body. The infection is not contagious. Symptoms occur when the bacteria enters the facial tissues after trauma, surgery, or infection. A common triggering causes is dental abscess or oral surgery. The infection has also been seen in certain women who have had an intrauterine device (IUD) to prevent pregnancy.
Once in the tissue, it forms an abscess, producing a hard, red to reddish-purple lump, often on the jaw, from which comes the condition’s common name, “lumpy jaw.”
Eventually, the abscess breaks through the skin surface to produce a draining sinus tract.

When to seek urgent medical care?

Contact a doctor once you have the symptoms suggestive of Actinomycosis

Diagnosis

  • Culture of the tissue or fluid shows Actinomyces species.
  • Examination of drained fluid under a microscope shows “sulfur granules” in the fluid. They are yellowish granules made of clumped organisms.
  • Examination under a microscope shows the Actinomyces species of bacteria.

Treatment options

Treatment of actinomycosis usually requires antibiotics for several months to a year. Surgical drainage or removal of the lesion may be needed. If the condition is related to an IUD, the device must be removed.

Where to find medical care for Actinomycosis?

Ask our experts on Condition

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

With treatment, you should recover fully.

Possible complications

Meningitis can rarely develop from this infection.

Prevention

Good oral hygiene and regular dentist visits may help prevent some forms of actinomycosis.

Sources

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000599.htm

Attribution

This article incorporates public domain material from Wikidoc and MedlinePlus. Please see licenses for further details.

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