Actinomycosis is a bacterial infection that results in collections of pus in the body.
This condition can be treated, so contact your doctor if you think you may have actinomycosis.
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Actinomycosis is most often caused by infection by the bacterium,
Actinomyces israelii. This is normally present in the mouth and, sometimes, in the intestines. The jaw is most commonly involved, with lung and abdominal infections being less common. Very rarely, women may develop abscesses in the reproductive organs or bladder.
Risk factors include: Having a dental disease or recent dental surgeryLiquids or solids that are sucked into lungsHaving bowel surgerySwallowing fragments of chicken or other bonesFor women: having an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD) in place for many yearsDiabetesHaving a weakened immune systemMalnutritionTissue damageIn children: Chronic granulomatous disease or other disorder that affects the immune system
Symptoms may include: Hard swellings that are usually painless and located around the mouth, neck, or jawSwellings that may produce pus containing tiny, yellowish particlesDrainage of pus through the skin of the chest or abdomenFeverWeight lossCough that produces sputum or bloodNoticeable swelling or firm mass in the abdomen, especially the lower part
If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include: Analyses of pus, sputum, or tissueX-ray
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
High doses of antibiotics
are used to treat actinomycosis. The antibiotics will need to be taken for 6-12 months.
Your doctor will drain pus-containing abscesses.
The best way to reduce your chances of developing actinomycosis is to prevent dental disease by practicing good dental hygiene and regularly visiting your dentist. You should also: Brush your teeth twice a dayFloss dailyReplace your toothbrush regularly
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Sullivan DC, Chapman SW. Bacteria that masquerade as fungi: actinomycosis/nocardia.
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Last reviewed August 2013 by Igor Puzanov, MD; Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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