Introduction to actinomycosis

There are many kinds of infections that can exist in the human body. And guess what? They can be found anywhere on and in the body. The ones on the body can be easily seen. But for those in the body, they cannot be seen but their symptoms can readily announce that you have got to go see a doctor help you check what’s wrong with you on your inside.
Let’s get home, to actinomycosis!
Actinomycosis is a prolonged infection that causes abscesses or sores in the soft tissues of the body.
You have in your body, soft tissues. And in these soft tissues are naturally occurring bacteria that are useful for your body. These bacteria can pass their limit on growth. They can multiply abundantly to the extent that they become harmful to the soft tissues where they are found – nose, mouth, stomach, intestine, lungs, and throat. No wonder then that it is these soft tissues that become mostly infected when the bacteria overgrow in them and gain access into the lining of the tissues. An infection breaks out. This infection is defined by abscesses or sores in the affected areas.
The infection cannot transfer to another body with which it makes contact. But it does have the ability to travel to uninfected areas of the body only in rare instances where the affected tissue becomes damaged due to illness and injury.
Countries in the tropics are the most affected.

Causes of actinomycosis

Actinomycosis does not spread fast. It is gradual. Its manner of development gave researchers the first impression that it was of a fungal origin. But research has shown that it is caused by bacteria. The bacteria belong to the family Actinomycetaceae. Members of this family include: 

  • Actinomyces odontolyticus
  • Actinomyces naeslundii
  • Actinomyces israelii and
  • Actinomyces viscosus.

It is not too common in the US.

Symptoms of actinomycosis

  • A hard lump inside your jaw. This is referred to as a lumpy jaw. It may induce a painful abscess on the skin even when the lump itself is not painful.
  • Spasms of the muscles of the jaw (aka locked jaw). This makes it difficult for you to open your mouth the normal way.
  • Increased body temperature
  • Decreased body weight
  • Lumps on the face or neck.
  • Skin sores
  • Excess sinus drainage
  • Painful chest
  • Coughing

Risk factors for actinomycosis

Malnourishment, poor oral hygiene, and a compromised immune system are the greatest risk factors that can predispose you to develop actinomycosis.
Take care of your mouth daily and even more whenever you have undergone a mouth/jaw trauma or dental surgery. Illnesses and medications can compromise your immune system.
An oral abscess has been said to be one of the most common causes of actinomycosis. Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you have an oral abscess for prompt medical assistance.
Intrauterine device usage by women is another risk factor for actinomycosis.

Diagnosis of actinomycosis

Tissue or fluid sample obtained from the area infected serve as the tool for diagnosis. The sample will then be viewed under a light microscope. The bacteria will appear as yellow-colored granules.

Treatment for actinomycosis

Bacterial infections are mostly treated with antibiotics. So is it with actinomycosis. In fact, it is primarily treated thus. The top antibiotic usually used is penicillin and it is given in a very high dose for a year for a complete cure of the infection. Other antibiotics exist and can be used when you react to penicillin. These antibiotics are tetracycline, erythromycin, and clindamycin.
In addition to the use of antibiotics, other things like the drainage of abscesses must be carried out for the total healing of the infection.
When actinomycosis is caused because of the use of the contraceptive called intrauterine device, as part of managing the infection, the device would have to be removed. It will place a check on subsequent infections.
The earlier actinomycosis is diagnosed and treated aggressively, the better for your health. It will lower your chances of developing advanced actinomycosis which will come with serious complications that might need surgical correction. It can be cured.

Long-term complications

When actinomycosis grows into a complicated state especially when not diagnosed and treated on time, it will spread to neighboring tissues and bones and cause their infections. In this case, the infected organs (particularly the bones and nasal sinuses) might have to be surgically removed. Nasal sinuses infections could be very dangerous as they could further travel to the brain and thus increase your chances of having meningitis. But this is mostly in rare instances.


Cultivate and maintain the habit of good hygiene particularly oral hygiene. This has been termed the very best preventive measure.
Also, cultivate the habit of seeing your dentist frequently. Doing this can save you the cost and pains of going through the condition before it develops at all.

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