What are the symptoms of Actinomyces infection?

Symptoms of an Actinomyces infection typically include lumps under the skin, most commonly on the face and neck, which turn red to reddish purple. The lumps eventually drain, producing a fluid containing yellowish crystals called sulfur granules. Fever may be present. At least half of Actinomyces infections involve the face and neck.

Actinomyces infections can also occur internally in the lungs, abdomen, pelvis, and other parts of the body. The specific symptoms depend on the site of the infection. Because Actinomyces infections tend to spread outward and can spread through the body wall, even internal infections can cause drainage of pus through the skin.

Common symptoms of skin and oral Actinomyces infections

Actinomyces infections most often affect the skin of the face and neck, although they can affect skin in any area of the body and the lining of the mouth. Common symptoms of skin and oral Actinomyces infections include:

  • Absent or mild pain
  • Drainage of pus containing yellowish crystals
  • Fever
  • Hard lumps under the skin or mouth lining
  • Red to reddish-purple discoloration of the overlying skin or mucous membranes
  • Weight loss

Symptoms of pulmonary Actinomyces infections

Actinomyces infections can occur in the chest, typically in the lungs. Symptoms of pulmonary Actinomyces infections include:

  • Chest pain
  • Cough with sputum
  • Drainage of pus containing yellowish crystals through the chest wall
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss

Symptoms of abdominal Actinomyces infections

Actinomyces infections can also occur in the abdomen, where they generally affect the digestive tract. Symptoms of abdominal Actinomyces infections include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation
  • Drainage of pus containing yellowish crystals through the abdominal wall
  • Fever
  • Mass in the abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss

Symptoms of pelvic Actinomyces infections

Actinomyces infections can occur in the pelvis, most commonly in women using an intrauterine device (IUD) for contraception. Symptoms of pelvic Actinomyces infections include:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Fever
  • Pelvic pain

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, serious infections of the lungs, abdomen or pelvis can develop. Also, the infections can spread from one area to adjacent areas, such as the structures in the mouth and neck, brain, liver, kidney, bone, and blood. Actinomyces infections can be life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms including:

  • Bluish coloration of the lips or fingernails (cyanosis)
  • Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness
  • Change in mental status or sudden behavior change, such as confusion, delirium, lethargy, hallucinations and delusions
  • Decreased urine output
  • High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Lumps that are near your eyes or interfere with eating or drinking
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Respiratory or breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, labored breathing, wheezing, not breathing, or choking
  • Severe pain
  • Severe dizziness or sudden loss of balance
  • Seizure
  • Vision changes

What is Actinomycetales (Actinomyces) infection?

Actinomycetales infections are caused by an order of bacteria known as Actinomycetales. This order contains several different groups of bacteria that are shaped like thin filaments or rods, including the Mycobacteria that are best known as the cause of tuberculosis. Bacteria from all of these groups cause a wide variety of diseases.

Actinomyces, one of the types of bacteria in the... Read more about actinomycetales infectionintroduction


What causes Actinomyces infection?

Actinomyces infections are caused by a type of bacteria known as Actinomyces, most commonly the species Actinomyces israelii. These bacteria reside in the nose, mouth and throat, where they do not cause disease. However, they can cause infection by entering the skin or body through breaks in the skin or mucous membranes. This can occur during surgery, through a tooth abscess, by aspiration, if ... Read more about actinomycetales infectioncauses


How is Actinomyces infection treated?

Although Actinomyces infections can be chronic, they can be readily treated with antibiotics and surgery if necessary. The antibiotics typically need to be taken for more than a month and sometimes up to a year until the infection clears. In the case of pelvic Actinomyces infections, any intrauterine device (IUD) that is present should ... Read more about actinomycetales infectiontreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases

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