A staph infection can manifest either as a skin or an internal infection. The symptoms of a skin infection are immediately visible and can be treated right away. In contrast, an internal infection is usually more difficult to diagnose because it can produce a wide array of symptoms, depending on what organ the bacteria choose to infect.
Staph Skin Infections Are Common but Readily Treatable
Staph bacteria are typically found on the skin and in the nostrils of humans. On a healthy person, they don’t cause any problems but if the immune system is suddenly overwhelmed, an infection will most likely occur.1 The following are skin infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus:2
✓ Skin abscess
✓ Folliculitis (staph infection on your face)
✓ Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS)
✓ Wound infection
These infections develop a wide variety of symptoms, which you can read about here.
Invasive Staph Infections Are More Serious
Invasive staph infections are less common than staph skin infections, but the symptoms are more severe. In some cases, they may even become life-threatening if not treated immediately. These conditions occur when bacteria enter the bloodstream, typically through a wound or crack in the skin.
Similar to staphylococcal skin infections, the symptoms of invasive staph infections vary widely depending on what disease will develop. Below are some of the most common invasive diseases caused by staph bacteria:
✓ Septic arthritis
✓ Toxic shock syndrome (TSS)
✓ Food poisoning
While it’s already mentioned that staph bacteria may enter your bloodstream through a crack, food poisoning is an exception. In food poisoning, staph is ingested and goes directly to your stomach. This occurs when the food isn’t cooked or handled properly, or if the food isn’t stored appropriately, allowing the bacteria to multiply without anyone knowing.
MRSA: A Stronger Form of Staph Bacteria
For several decades now, medical professionals have advocated the use of antibiotics to treat various bacterial infections. But antibiotics have become less effective because staph bacteria are evolving, as in the case of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
As the name suggests, MRSA is resistant to methicillin, a penicillin-derived antibiotic. Not only that, MRSA also happens to be resistant against other forms of antibiotics. There are two forms of MRSA you can acquire — through a hospital or healthcare setting (HA-MRSA) or your community (CA-MRSA).3
MRSA is a special type of staph bacteria due to its stronger resilience compared to normal staph bacteria. If you develop a staph infection on your face, nose or leg, it’s quite hard to tell if you’ve contracted MRSA because it causes the same symptoms as normal staph bacteria. For invasive infections, extensive testing is required.4
While MRSA is definitely a serious condition you should be aware of, fortunately it can be prevented. Protective methods such as washing your hands with water and triclosan-free soap, and cleaning and covering your wounds all work well against MRSA. These methods are also effective against normal staph bacteria.5