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What are the Signs & Symptoms of Pseudomonas Aeruginosa?


The chances are you may never have heard of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and even if the name sounds familiar, you may not be au fait with exactly what it is and how it might affect someone. Thankfully this is where we step in, and inform you that Pseudomonas aeruginosa (there are other strains of pseudomonas, yet the majority have been found to spawn in a similar manner when clinically presented) is a commonly occurring bacterium discovered across the globe; and typically rooted in soil, plants and water sources. What’s more (and admittedly a little gross sounding), it’s not unheard of for seemingly healthy people to have variations on the common pseudomonas theme alive and kicking MUCH closer to home. So much so, that certain strains – or series of events/eventualities - can take hold and prosper on host’s skin, particularly moist parts of the human anatomy (like armpits and/or the genital area for example).

So, What Are the Specific and Recognised Signs of Pseudomonas Aeruginosa to be Made Aware of?

Turning our attentions to the key symptoms normally associated with the onset of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and a lot depends on whereabouts the infection establishes itself. Pseudomonas is no respecters of persons per se and have a habit of making their presence felt in numerous areas within the body; including the bloodstream, lungs, stomach, urinary tract or tendons. In addition to this, existing skin wounds could also become possible breeding grounds for pseudomonas, taking into account pressure sores and burns which might also become infected. In terms of identifying symptoms to be vigilant for (and moreover, locations on the body where infection tends to occur), the following are universally cited as amongst the core examples.

  • Ears (pain and discharge)
  • Eyes (pain, redness, swelling)
  • Skin (rash, which can include pimples filled with pus) - Pseudomonas does not grow on dry skin, however has a propensity to flourishes on moist skin. Green nail syndrome is a paronychia-type infection that can develop in individuals whose hands are frequently submerged in water, while secondary wound infections occur in patients with decubiti, eczema, and tinea pedis. These infections may have a characteristic blue-green exudate with a fruity odour. Pseudomonas is a common cause of hot tub or swimming pool folliculitis, as many patients present with pruritic follicular, maculopapular, vesicular, or pustular lesions on any part of the body that was immersed in water.
  • Bones or joints (joint pain and swelling; neck or back pain that lasts weeks) - The most common sites of involvement are the vertebral column, the pelvis, and the sternoclavicular joint
  • Wounds (green pus, or discharge that may have a fruity smell)
  • Gastrointestinal/Digestive Tract ((headache, diarrhoea) - Pseudomonal infections can affect every portion of the GI tract. The disease is often underestimated but usually affects very young children and adults with hematologic malignancies and chemotherapy-induced neutropenia
  • Lungs (pneumonia; severe coughing and congestion)
  • Fever (also acknowledged as a sign of a severe pseudomonas infection)
  • Urinary tract infections - Pseudomonal urinary tract infections usually require a spell of hospitalisation and are associated with catheterization, instrumentation and surgery. These infections can involve the urinary tract through an ascending infection or through bacteremic spread
  • …..Meanwhile the central nervous system can be attacked by a particularly virulent strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can in turn lead to the onset of critical health issues such as meningitis and/or brain abscess.

<Want to learn more about the water-borne pathogens that can inhabit domestic  water systems? Check out our infographic>

Picking up on the Above, Who Are Considered Most at Risk from the Advent of Pseudomonas Aeruginosa?

Those most at risk include people who;

  • Have a wound from surgery
  • Are being treated for burns
  • Use a breathing machine, catheter, or other medical device
  • Suffer from diabetes or Cystic Fibrosis
  • Have a disorder that weakens their immune system (such as HIV)
  • Take medications that suppress their immune system (like those that treat cancer)

Further to this, below we have outlined health conditions which are classed as predisposing to pseudomonal infections (and major manifestations);

  • Diabetes - Malignant otitis externa
  • Drug dependency/addiction - Endocarditis, osteomyelitis
  • Leukaemia - Sepsis, Typhlitis
  • Cancer - Pneumonia, sepsis
  • Burn wound - Cellulitis, sepsis
  • Cystic Fibrosis – Pneumonia
  • Surgery involving CNS – Meningitis
  • Tracheostomy – Pneumonia
  • Neonatal period – Diarrhoea
  • Corneal ulcer – Panophthalmitis
  • Vascular catheterization - Bacteraemia, suppurative thrombophlebitis
  • Urinary catheterization - UTI

How is Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Diagnosed, and What Treatment is Subsequently Offered by the Medical Profession?

In the event of a GP suspecting the presence of any pseudomonas, they’ll ask to take a blood sample (or another bodily fluid) and send it for the appropriate tests at a lab to determine whether or not an individual has contracted Pseudomonas aeruginosa; and to ultimately ascertain which type of antibiotics would be best suited to fight the infection. With mild forms of pseudomonas, a course of antibiotics is traditionally prescribed, and based on where the infection has been identified the medicine could take the form of a cream, eye drops, ear drops or orally-ingested tablets, all of which comprise of antibiotic qualities. Similar to influenza in some respects, every pseudomonas bacteria is slightly different from the other, with strains perpetually changing; which makes infections a challenge to treat on some occasions. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that a sufferer is required to take more than one kind of antibiotic, whilst in severe cases antibiotics might be administered courtesy of an IV tube/feed.

What Measures Can I Adopt to Avoid Succumbing to a Pseudomonas Infection?

Basically, good hygiene form will stand anyone in good stead when it comes to consciously side-stepping a potential pseudomonas Infection. In a nut shell it’s imperative to be aware that germs can prosper in certain situations, ergo take a more pro-active approach to personal hygiene both at home and when out and about. This includes;

  • Ensure you wash your hands often. If you’re in the hospital, make sure that doctors and nurses always clean their hands before touching you, too
  • Always rinse fruits/vegetables before eating. Even salad greens should be given a good wash
  • Always subject water bottles to a regular clean between uses. Sterilize with boiling water ideally
  • Try to avoid unclean pools and hot tubs. Pseudomonas will thrive in them unless they’re cleaned often and the chlorine and pH are well-controlled

Ensuring you have an effective water hygiene monitoring programme can help prevent & control the risk of your domestic water system harbouring bacteria such as pseudomonas and legionella. Check out our free audit checklist to make sure you have effective controls in place.

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