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When to seek medical advice

Call your family doctor immediately if you or your child has signs or symptoms of diphtheria or if anyone in your family is exposed to diphtheria. If you're not sure if your child has been vaccinated against diphtheria, make an appointment. Make sure your own immunizations are current.

Screening and diagnosis

Doctors may suspect diphtheria in a sick child who has a sore throat with a gray membrane covering the tonsils and throat. Doctors confirm the diagnosis by taking a sample of the membrane from the child's throat with a swab and having the bacteria grown (cultured) in a laboratory.

Doctors can also take a sample of tissue from an infected wound and have it tested in a laboratory, to test for cutaneous diphtheria.

If a doctor suspects diphtheria, treatment begins immediately, even before the results of bacterial tests are available.


Left untreated, diphtheria can lead to:

  • Breathing problems. Diphtheria-causing bacteria may produce a toxin, a poison. This toxin damages tissue in the immediate area of infection — the nose and throat, for example. This localized infection produces a tough, gray-colored membrane — which is composed of dead cells, bacteria and other substances — on mucous membranes inside your nose and throat. This membrane, or covering, is dangerous because it can obstruct breathing.

  • Heart damage. The diphtheria toxin may spread through your bloodstream and damage other tissues in your body, such as your heart muscle. One complication of diphtheria is inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis). Signs and symptoms of myocarditis include fever, vague chest pain, joint pain and an abnormally fast heart rate. Damage to the heart from myocarditis may be only slight, showing up as minor abnormalities on an electrocardiogram, or very severe, leading to congestive heart failure and sudden death.

  • Kidney damage. The diphtheria toxin may damage the kidneys, affecting their ability to filter wastes from the blood.

  • Nerve damage. The toxin can also cause nerve damage, targeting certain nerves such as those to the throat, making swallowing difficult. Nerves to the arms and legs may also become inflamed, causing muscle weakness. In severe cases, nerves that help control the muscles used in breathing may be damaged, leading to paralysis of these muscles and trouble breathing.

With treatment, most people with diphtheria survive these complications, but recovery is often slow. Diphtheria is fatal in approximately 10 percent of cases.


Diphtheria > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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Two drops of blood under a specialized high powered ultra-dark field microscope, reveals anomalies in the blood. The unique tool for prevention.

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
In no event will The DrEddyClinic.com be liable for any decision made or action taken in reliance upon the information provided through this web site.



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Last Modified : 03/15/08 12:21 AM