Pseudomonas infections are illnesses that occur due to the bacteria Pseudomonas. For many people, a Pseudomonas infection will only cause mild symptoms.
However, if a person is in a hospital or has a weakened immune system, the threat becomes very severe. In these situations, a Pseudomonas infection can be life-threatening.
The good news is that these infections are treatable, especially with an early diagnosis.
In this article, we look at the causes, risk factors, and symptoms of Pseudomonas infections, as well as how people can prevent and treat them.
Pseudomonas is a common genus of bacteria, which can create infections in the body under certain circumstances.
There are many different types of Pseudomonas bacteria. Only a few types can cause an infection.
Pseudomonas bacteria tend to live and breed in water, soil, and damp areas. The warmer and wetter it is, the better the conditions are for the bacteria to multiply.
People who are in the hospital for surgery or treatment for a major illness are most vulnerable to this kind of infection.
An incision from a surgical procedure or an open wound can increase the risk of infection. The bacteria can also invade pressure wounds, or bed sores.
People with weakened immune systems are also prone to more severe Pseudomonas infections.
Milder Pseudomonas infections can occur in otherwise healthy people. These include ear infections and skin rashes, especially after exposure to water.
Pseudomonas bacteria cause well-known conditions such as hot tub rash, a red and itchy skin rash resulting from contaminated water, and swimmer’s ear.
In addition to people who are staying in a hospital, have a weakened immune system, or both, there are specific groups who are more vulnerable to Pseudomonas infections.
These groups include people who:
- have severe burns
- have had surgery or another invasive procedure
- are using a breathing machine or catheter
- are undergoing chemotherapy
- have diabetes
- have cystic fibrosis
- have HIV, which can damage the immune system
- have any other medical condition that compromises the immune system
Symptoms of Pseudomonas infections vary according to the infection’s severity and location.
The areas of the body that the infections are most likely to affect are the ears, skin, lungs, soft tissue, and blood.
A Pseudomonas infection that reaches the bloodstream tends to be more severe.
Common symptoms of the infections include:
- Ears: Pain, itching, and liquid discharge.
- Skin: Rashes, which may consist of pus-filled pimples.
- Eyes: Pain and redness.
- In the lungs: Pneumonia, coughing, and congestion.
- Soft tissue: Discharge of green pus and a sweet, fruity smell.
- In the blood: Joint pain and stiffness, fever, chills, and fatigue.
- Other possible symptoms: A headache, diarrhea, or urinary tract infection.
To help diagnose a Pseudomonas infection, a doctor may ask about any recent activities that might be relevant, such as swimming or using a hot tub. They will also carry out a physical examination.
The doctor might take a sample of blood or fluid from the affected area to confirm a diagnosis.
As there are different types of Pseudomonas bacteria, laboratory tests may also be necessary to determine the best course of treatment.
Antibiotics are the best option to treat Pseudomonas or other bacterial infections.
Some Pseudomonas infections require an aggressive approach with powerful drugs. The earlier the treatment begins, the more effective it is in stopping the infection.
This is particularly true in the hospital environment. The bacteria in hospitals get regular exposure to antibiotics, and, over time, develop resistance to these drugs. This makes them more difficult to treat.
Once doctors know which type of Pseudomonas bacteria is responsible for the infection and whether or not this strain is resistant to any drugs, they can combine medications to make treatment more effective.
Most minor Pseudomonas infections resolve either without treatment or after minimal treatment.
If symptoms are mild or nonexistent, it is not necessary to treat the infection.
In the case of swimmer’s ear, rinsing the ear with vinegar can help. A doctor may also prescribe an antibiotic called polymyxin.
Doctors usually treat urinary tract infections with an oral antibiotic, such as levofloxacin or ciprofloxacin.
Eye infections from Pseudomonas bacteria are relatively rare. When they do arise, doctors can treat them with antibiotic drops.
In severe cases, doctors may use a particular procedure to inject antibiotics directly into the eye.
In many cases, Pseudomonas infections are preventable. Bacteria live and breed in moist places. The more dirty and moist those places become, the more bacteria live and breed there.
Therefore, whether it is in the intensive care unit or at the local swimming pool, cleanliness is vital.
It is essential for all doctors and nurses to practice good hand hygiene. Other hospital staff will keep equipment clean and ensure that patient rooms are as germ-free as possible.
People staying in the hospital and their families should follow instructions about frequent hand-washing.
Anyone with an infection, including the common cold, should avoid visiting patients in the hospital.
It is essential to change dressings regularly and monitor wounds for any early signs of infection.
Outside hospitals, people should be careful about using swimming pools or hot tubs that appear dirty or poorly maintained.
People should always shower after swimming and wash their swimsuits and towels in hot water.
Pseudomonas bacteria are generally harmless. When they do cause an infection, it is usually mild in people who are otherwise healthy.
However, Pseudomonas infections can be severe in people with a weakened immune system. It is essential for anyone at risk of complications to see a doctor as soon as possible.