Pseudomonas Infection

What Are Pseudomonas Infections?

Pseudomonas infections are infections caused by a kind of bacteria called Pseudomonas that’s commonly found in soil, water, and plants. The type that typically causes infections in people is called Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Some healthy people even have strains of it growing on their skin in moist parts of their body, like their armpits or genital area.

If you’re in good health, you could come into contact with pseudomonas and not get sick. Other people only get a mild skin rash or an ear or eye infection. But if you’re sick or your immune system is already weakened, pseudomonas can cause a severe infection. In some cases, it can be life-threatening.

Pseudomonas Infection Causes and Risk Factors

You can get pseudomonas in many different ways. It can grow on fruits and vegetables, so you could get sick from eating contaminated food. It also thrives in moist areas like pools, hot tubs, bathrooms, kitchens, and sinks.

The most severe infections occur in hospitals. Pseudomonas can easily grow in humidifiers and types of medical equipment -- catheters, for instance -- that aren’t properly cleaned. If health care workers don’t wash their hands well, they can also transfer the bacteria from an infected patient to you.

Your risk of pseudomonas infection also goes up if you:

Take medications that suppress your immune system, like those that treat cancer

Pseudomonas Infection Symptoms

Symptoms depend on where the infection is. Pseudomonas can infect any part of your body, such as your blood, lungs, stomach, urinary tract, or tendons. Pressure sores, wounds, and burns can also become infected.

Places where infection occurs -- and their signs -- may include:

  • Ears: pain and discharge
  • Skin: rash, which can include pimples filled with pus
  • Eyes: pain, redness, swelling
  • Bones or joints: joint pain and swelling; neck or back pain that lasts weeks
  • Wounds: green pus or discharge that may have a fruity smell
  • Digestive tract: headache, diarrhea
  • Lungs: pneumonia; severe coughing and congestion
  • Urinary: urinary tract infections

Fever is also often a sign of a severe pseudomonas infection.

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Pseudomonas Infection Diagnosis

If your doctor suspects pseudomonas, they’ll take a sample of your blood or another body fluid and send it to a lab to be tested. The results may also help them decide which types of antibiotics will work best to cure the infection.

Pseudomonas Infection Treatment

If you have a mild form of pseudomonas, your doctor can prescribe a course of antibiotics. Depending on where your infection is, this medicine could be in the form of a cream, eye drops or ear drops, or pills you take by mouth.

A severe infection may require weeks of antibiotics that you’ll be given through an IV. Every pseudomonas bacteria is slightly different, and strains are constantly changing, so these types of infections can be hard to treat. Many times, you may need to take more than one kind of antibiotic.

 

Pseudomonas Infection Prevention

You can lower your risk of getting sick by trying to avoid coming into contact with this type of bacteria. Try these simple tips to keep these nasty germs at bay:

  • Wash your hands often. This is the best way to avoid getting pseudomonas. If you’re in the hospital, make sure that doctors and nurses always clean their hands before touching you, too.

  • Rinse fruits and vegetables before eating. Even salad greens should be given a good wash.

  • Clean your water bottles. Sterilize with boiling water between each use.

  • Avoid unclean pools and hot tubs. Pseudomonas will thrive in them unless they’re cleaned often and the chlorine and pH are well-controlled.

  • Ask questions about your medical care.Talk to your doctor if you have worries about getting infected. Ask about medical equipment you’re using -- whether it's necessary and how often it’s cleaned.

  • Take care of your health. If your doctor has prescribed medicine to manage a health condition, take it exactly as prescribed. Don’t skip a dose. After surgery, be on the lookout for signs of infection. If you run a fever, have pain or see redness or discharge at your surgery site, call your doctor right away.

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Pseudomonas Infection Outlook

In most cases, antibiotics can clear the infection, but it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions and focus on prevention. If one course of antibiotics doesn't completely get rid of the bacteria that’s causing your infection, you may need to take them fairly regularly to keep the infection under control.  

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on August 24, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC:“Pseudomonas Aeruginosa in Healthcare Settings,” “Patient Safety: What You Can Do to be 

a Safe Patient.”

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation: “Pseudomonas.”

Action Medical Research for Children: “Secrets of a Superbug: What Makes Pseudomonas Bacteria So Deadly?”

British Lung Foundation: “Pseudomonas infection.”

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