MRSA Complications if it’s Not Treated in Time
MRSA is a serious disease. It can be difficult to treat because it is resistant to a lot of antibiotics that we use today. This nasty bacteria used to be prevalent in the healthcare settings only. It was spread from patient to patient on the hands of healthcare workers. Recently, MRSA has also become prevalent in the community. There have been so many cases of MRSA being found in the community that the CDC has divided MRSA into two main categories. HA-MRSA stands for hospital acquired or healthcare-associated MRSA. CA-MRSA stands for community-acquired MRSA.
Regardless of the type of MRSA an individual has, it is critical that treatment for this infection is started as soon as possible. MRSA is not something that will clear up on its own. It is a disease that needs some powerful antibiotics to stop it from spreading throughout the body.
MRSA is a staph infection. The staph that produces MRSA lives on the skin. A small cut or a scrape will produce an opening in which this staph can enter the body and start making you sick. Skin infections like boils are very common with a MRSA infection.
MRSA can also appear in other places on your body. In fact, you can get MRSA almost anywhere. Individuals can get MRSA in the lungs, in the bloodstream and in the urinary system. The dangerous bug can produce horrible complications if it is not treated in time. The following is a list of complications that can arise from MRSA:
This is sometimes referred to as blood poisoning or bacteremia with sepsis. It is a very serious life-threatening condition that can progress rapidly. This type of MRSA complication will begin with fever spikes, chills, fast heart rate and rapid breathing. This condition can rapidly deteriorate to septic shock, which can be characterized by either a high body temperature or a low body temperature. Blood pressure will fall, and confusion may be present. The affected individual may develop blood clotting problems which can produce small red spots on the skin.
Septicemia will require a hospital stay, usually within an ICU. The patient will receive IV fluids, antibiotics and oxygen. In some cases, blood may need to be given to correct blood clotting abnormalities. Death can still occur despite aggressive treatment.
A MRSA infection that is untreated can lead to gangrene. Gangrene occurs when the tissues die because their blood supply is interrupted. The treatment for gangrene involves debridement. This is the process of cutting away the dead tissue. In some cases, the gangrene will be so deep and extensive the only way to get rid of it is to cut off the body part that is dead. This is most common in the extremities, especially the toes.
Another complication of untreated MRSA is osteomyelitis. This is an infection in the bone. The symptoms of osteomyelitis can include fever, bone pain, general discomfort and swelling over the infected bone. This condition can be detected through blood tests and x-rays of the bone.
The treatment for osteomyelitis includes intravenous antibiotics. It is common to get more than one antibiotic for this type of infection. If the infection is not responding to antibiotics, surgery may be needed to remove the infected bone. In some cases of chronic osteomyelitis, amputation may be necessary.
Untreated MRSA can cause an inflammation of the inside lining of the heart and the heart valves. This is called endocarditis. This condition will produce a host of symptoms. Fatigue, joint pain, night sweats, weakness and shortness of breath are just a few symptoms.
Treatment for endocarditis will include hospitalization with intravenous antibiotics. In some cases, surgery may be needed to replace damaged heart valves. The earlier treatment begins the better the outcome.
It is possible for MRSA to get into the lungs. Once in the lungs, the bacteria can multiply. Symptoms of MRSA pneumonia include a cough that produces green or yellow phlegm. It can also produce high fever, chills, chest pain and difficulty breathing. The elderly and those with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk for developing serious complications from this type of pneumonia.
Treatment is usually intravenous antibiotics. In severe cases, the individual may have to be put on a breathing machine. Some individuals will die from this infection.
There have been cases in which MRSA skin infections have led to necrotizing fasciitis. This is sometimes called flesh eating disease. The bacteria will release harmful toxins that kill tissue, interferes with blood flow to the tissue and breaks down the materials in the tissue. This type of skin infection spreads rapidly, and it can easily result in death.
Intravenous antibiotics are given to try to interrupt the progression of this disease. Support may also be needed to maintain blood pressure and other vital signs. Surgery to remove the parts of the body that are affected with these bacteria may be required. Even with treatment the patient is at risk for dying.
An untreated MRSA infection will always put the patient at risk for death. The complications listed above are just a few things that can happen with MRSA. The risk of death with MRSA increases in individuals who are elderly or who have underlying medical problems such as diabetes. Anyone who is immunocompromised is at a high risk for dying from MRSA.
MRSA should never be taken lightly. If you have a skin infection that doesn’t seem to be healing you need to see your doctor as soon as possible. The earlier that MRSA treatment is started the better your chances are for a full recovery.
The best defense you have against this powerful super bug is good hand hygiene. MRSA is spread primarily on the hands so it is important you wash your hands often. Carry hand sanitizer with you to use when you don’t have access to soap and water. Keeping your hands germ free will reduce your risk of becoming infected.