Symptoms of Diphtheria – Spot it Soon

Diphtheria has been a major epidemic from the olden times itself and has caused the death of many infants and old people. It is generally transmitted airborne. It has many serious complications and can even cause the patient’s death. So if a patient is diagnosed with diphtheria treatment must be given immediately. The symptoms of diphtheria can be used to identify the disease. Even though diagnosis for diphtheria is available, for common people the symptoms of diphtheria can help in its identification.

After the bacterial infection the symptoms will start within two to five days. The two to five days is the incubation period of the virus. The symptoms of diphtheria are many and they include the following.


1)                  sore throat

Sore throat is common symptom of diphtheria. Sore throat is any damages caused in the throat which can be due to any virus or due to any mechanical causes. This can be easily treated at home. Sore throat has certain symptoms like scratchy feeling at the back of the throat; mostly swallowing food will induce pain, the lymph nodes will become swollen etc.

2)                  Fever

Fever, another symptom of diphtheria can be termed as a variation in the body temperature especially the rising of body temperature.  If the patient’s body temperature has risen above 104 degree Fahrenheit, then the patient is having significant fever. A person having diphtheria will have high fever. Mostly fever is a body mechanism to increase the fighting capability of the body against viruses and bacteria. Many drugs are present for treatment of fever. The fever in a person infected with diphtheria is induced by the body itself to fight the bacterium responsible for it with the body’s immunity.

3)                  Hoarseness

It is abnormality in the voice and is caused by irritation or vocal chord injury. The diphtheria being an upper respiratory infection causes inflammation of the vocal chord and results in hoarseness. Gargling with warm salt water is an effective home treatment for hoarseness.

4)                  difficulty in breathing

A person with diphtheria will have difficulty in breathing. Due to the infection and damages caused in the upper respiratory system the breathing process will become difficult. Breathing difficulty is a common symptom of diphtheria and is found in all patients of diphtheria.

Many other symptoms like malaise and difficulty in swallowing re present. With the progression of the disease a gray lining is developed on the tonsil lining tissues.  Those infected with severe diphtheria will have a swollen neck and their lymph nodes will get enlarged. The membrane formed at the tonsils can extend to the trachea and can cause death due to suffocation.  With the increase in the amount of diphtheria toxin the symptoms of diphtheria can become severe complications. The heart affects inflammation and results in abnormal heart rate. Vision problems and softening of muscles are the other severe symptoms of diphtheria. Skin ulcer covered with grey –brown membrane is the symptom of cutaneous diphtheria.

The symptoms of diphtheria can be both severe as well as curable. The proper identification of the stage of diphtheria from the symptoms of diphtheria can save a life. The diagnosis of diphtheria can be easily done by culturing the tissues taken from the areas of infection. Vaccination for diphtheria is available and vaccinating properly at the prescribed ages will protect a person from the bacteria causing diphtheria. Since diphtheria can turn fatal to infants and old age people identification and treatment is essential.

Treatment of Diphtheria

The main part affecting diphtheria is the upper respiratory system. It then spreads to other organs like skin, ear linings and the genital organs. Diphtheria was a widespread cause for the death of infants and old age people from the ancient times. The invention of the anti toxin for diphtheria in the 1890s has reduced the number of infection throughout. The diphtheria toxin produced by the bacterium is responsible for the symptoms. The symptoms of diphtheria include sore throat, fever, malaise, breathing problems etc. in sever cases of diphtheria complications relating to human heart and muscles are found which can result in the death of the patient.

Before going into the treatment of diphtheria let’s have a look on the diagnosing methods used for finding the bacterium inside a person. Diphtheria is diagnosed only after the isolation of the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae from a patient’s body. For diagnosis cultures from the areas which are suspected to have infection, like nose or throat are tested. After isolating the bacterium it must be found out whether it is capable of producing the toxin. Testing the isolate in laboratories which specializes in these tests can identify whether the bacterium isolated can produce toxin or not. After the conformation of diphtheria toxin, the antibody levels in the patient body are evaluated. A detailed testing of the blood and E.C.G. can find the seriousness and complications.

If a person is suspected to have diphtheria then even before the arrival of the lab test results, the treatment of diphtheria must be started. The main medicine used in the treatment of diphtheria is the diphtheria antitoxin. The antitoxin neutralizes the diphtheria toxin which is circulating in the body and reduces the disease progression. While the treatment of diphtheria the use of anti toxin is the primary choice. The effectiveness of the anti toxin is very high so its usage is mostly recommended in the early stages during the treatment of diphtheria. In some peoples the bacterium will be non active and the infected person will only act as a carrier these people are called asymptomatic carriers. The usage of anti toxin in these asymptomatic carriers will produce no result.

In the treatment of diphtheria antibiotics are also administered. Antibiotics help in fighting bacteria and since a bacterium is the causing gent for diphtheria, it can be effectively used in the treatment of diphtheria. Another advantage of using antibiotics is that they prevent the transmission of bacterium due to contact. Penicillin, erythromycin etc are most commonly recommended antibiotics used in the treatment of diphtheria.  For treatment of diphtheria in asymptomatic carriers, antibiotics are effective and are usually prescribed. Breathing problems are a common symptom for diphtheria therefore intubation is used for improving the breathing conditions of the patient during the treatment of diphtheria. The potential cardiac as well as neurological complications must be treated by the corresponding specialist during the treatment of diphtheria.

Since diphtheria is a deadly contagious disease, its prevention is important. The universal vaccination using antitoxin is the main method in the prevention of diphtheria. The vaccination in children is carried out through a schedule. Vaccination for diphtheria is carried out in the prescribed ages for children in the prescribed amounts. The establishment of universal vaccination for diphtheria has helped in controlling the number of diphtheria case in the world.  The medicinal facilities available presently offer high quality which makes the treatment of diphtheria easier. Thus the number of deaths caused by diphtheria is very less in the recent years.

Diphtheria- Disease Which Hinders Respiration

Skin, ear’s lining tissues and the genital areas are the other areas of the body where diphtheria can affect. The mucus membranes of the respiratory tract are the primary areas where the disease affects. The bacterium responsible for the diphtheria disease is the Corynebacterium diphtheriae.   Diphtheria referred to as the “strangling angel of children” was a main cause of death of children from the olden times itself. Many outbreaks of diphtheria were seen in Europe, America and Russia till nineteen nineties.

The bacterium causing diphtheria was identified in the eighteen eighties. The scientists at the time started researching for an antitoxin to control diphtheria and successfully developed the vaccine for diphtheria in the 1890s. Proper administration of the vaccine has lead to a significant decrease in the number of diphtheria cases. Even though it is still an epidemic in many countries, the respiratory diphtheria is now a rare disease in America. Since there is pre vaccination period for children many cases of diphtheria are still present due to lack of proper vaccination.

Diphtheria is caused due to the toxins produced by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The causing bacterium is of four types. The diphtheria produced by each type will differ in severity. The less severe cases of diphtheria are caused by the non toxic strains produced by the bacteria. The diphtheria causing bacterium has an ability to produce inflammation reaction for the cells lining the respiratory tract in the upper respiratory system. This reaction is the main factor behind all the symptoms of diphtheria. Diphtheria can become more severe and can also infect many other organs and can even prove to be deadly.

Diphtheria is easily contagious and can be transmitted airborne. The respiratory droplets of an infected person, which when released into the air get in contact with a healthy human being and results in the transmission of diphtheria. Direct contact with the nasopharyngeal secretions or even with the skin lesions can result in transmission of diphtheria. An object contaminated by a diphtheria patient can only rarely be a reason for the disease transmission. Over crowded living areas with poor living standards can be very much prone to spreading of diphtheria.

The bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae which is the primary agent for this disease can only be carried by humans. So humans itself act as a carrier for diphtheria. Some individuals infected with this bacterium may not develop symptoms but they act as the carrier for diphtheria causing bacterium.

Diphtheria can trigger certain potential complications. It can interrupt the proper working of human heart. The heart valve gets infected and causes disturbances in the heart rhythm. It can also cause muscle paralysis and can induce weakness in muscles. Vision related problems are also a complication of diphtheria.  The lungs, blood and the human bones get infected and cause various difficulties. In some cases diphtheria has even caused the patient’s death. For patients who are younger than five years and older than forty years, respiratory diphtheria can be fatal.

Diphtheria being an easily contagious disease with serious complications, the prevention of this disease becomes important. The vaccination against diphtheria is widely available so universal vaccination is the right way to prevent diphtheria. For immunization of infants a Dtap vaccination schedule is made. The children are vaccinated with different doses at the prescribed age.  In order to maintain the level of protective antibody, booster injections are required within the interval of 10 years. An update of the vaccination is required for travelers to an area infected with this disease.