What are pseudomonas infections?
Pseudomonas infections are diseases caused by a bacterium from the genus Pseudomonas. The bacteria are found widely in the environment, such as in soil, water, and plants. They usually do not cause infections in healthy people. If an infection does occur in a healthy person, it is generally mild.
More severe infections occur in people who are already hospitalized with another illness or condition, or people who have a weak immune system. Pseudomonades are fairly common pathogens involved in infections acquired in a hospital setting. A pathogen is a microorganism that causes disease. Infections acquired in a hospital are called nosocomial infections.
Infections can occur in any part of the body. Symptoms depend on which part of the body is infected. Antibiotics are used to treat the infections. Pseudomonas infection could be fatal in people who are already very ill.
What are the symptoms of pseudomonas infections?
Infections in the skin tend to be less severe than infections that occur in the blood or lungs. Specific symptoms depend on where the infection occurs:
A bacterial infection of the blood is called bacteremia. A blood infection is one of the most severe infections caused by pseudomonas. Symptoms may include:
Infection of the lungs is called pneumonia. Symptoms include:
When this bacterium infects the skin, it most often affects the hair follicles. This is called folliculitis. Symptoms may include:
An external ear canal infection may sometimes be caused by pseudomonas and result in “swimmer’s ear.” Symptoms may include:
Symptoms of an eye infection may include:
- impaired vision
Pseudomonas infections can be very aggressive, particularly infections in the lungs or skin.
What causes pseudomonas infections?
Pseudomonas infections are caused by a free-living bacterium from the genus Pseudomonas. They favor moist areas and are widely found in soil and water. Only a few of the many species cause disease. The most common species that causes infection is called Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Who is at risk for pseudomonas infections?
Healthy people are usually at low risk of infection. People who already have a weakened immune system because of another illness or condition are at a higher risk of infection. This is especially true for people who are hospitalized for an extended period of time.
The bacteria can be spread in hospitals via the hands of healthcare workers, or by hospital equipment that is not properly cleaned.
Pseudomonas infections are considered opportunistic infections. This means that the organism only causes disease when a person’s immune system is already impaired.
Conditions that may increase the risk of infection include:
- burn wounds
- receiving chemotherapy for cancer
- cystic fibrosis
- HIV or AIDS
- presence of a foreign body, like a mechanical ventilator or catheter
- undergoing an invasive procedure, like a surgery
Infections can be severe in people whose immune systems are already compromised.
Very mild illnesses like skin rashes and ear infections have been reported in healthy individuals. The infection might occur after exposure to hot tubs and swimming pools that are inadequately chlorinated. This is sometimes called “hot tub rash.” Eye infections can occur in people who wear contacts if they use infected contact lens solution.
Pseudomonas can infect any part of the body including the liver, brain, bones, and sinuses. Infection of these sites and those not mentioned, however, is much less common than the infections listed above.
How are pseudomonas infections diagnosed?
Your doctor will perform a physical examination and ask you about your medical history and recent symptoms. They may take a sample of pus, blood, or tissue, and send it to a laboratory. The laboratory will then test the sample for the presence of pseudomonas.
How are pseudomonas infections treated?
Pseudomonas infections are treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, many pseudomonas infections are becoming more difficult to treat. These bacteria have developed the ability to adapt and overcome antibiotics in their environment. This is called antibiotic resistance.
The increase in antibiotic resistance has made treating infections much more challenging. Pseudomonas infections can often develop resistance to multiple types of antibiotics. It can even sometimes develop resistance during the course of treatment.
It is important that your doctor selects an effective antibiotic. A doctor may send a specimen from a patient to a laboratory first for testing in order to be more certain. The laboratory will test the specimen to determine which antibiotic will work best.
Treatment may involve one or more of the following types of antibiotics:
- ciprofloxacin or levofloxacin
What is the outlook?
Ear infections and skin infections from swimming pools and hot tubs are typically mild.
Severe infections can be fatal if not treated right away. Call your doctor if you have any new symptoms you are concerned about. Prompt treatment with the correct antibiotic will speed up your recovery time.
How can pseudomonas infections be prevented?
Thoroughly washing hands and cleaning equipment in hospitals can help prevent infection. Outside a hospital, avoiding hot tubs and swimming pools that are poorly cared for can help prevent infections. You should remove swimming garments and shower with soap after getting out of the water. Drying your ears after swimming can also help prevent swimmer’s ear.
There are several things you can do to prevent infection if you are recovering from a procedure or receiving a treatment in a hospital:
- Tell your nurse if any of your dressings become loose or look wet.
- Tell your nurse if you think any tubes of IV lines have come loose.
- Make sure you fully understand the treatment or procedure your doctor has requested for you.