Guide To The Causes And Complications Of Strep Throat

January 9, 2023

Strep throat is a bacterial infection in the throat that causes the area to become sore and inflamed. Symptoms of strep throat include quick onset throat pain, painful swallowing, tonsils that are red and swollen, white patches in the throat, small red spots on the throat or the back of the hard palate, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, headache, fever, rash, nausea, vomiting, and body aches. Diagnosis of strep throat is made with the use of physical examination, rapid antigen test, and throat culture. An individual with strep throat may be treated with antibiotic medications to kill the causative bacteria along with other medications to relieve symptoms. These medications include ibuprofen, acetylsalicylic acid, and acetaminophen.

Group A Streptococcus

An individual gets strep throat when they contract a certain bacterial infection in their tonsils and throat. This infection is due to the colonization of a type of bacteria referred to as group A streptococcus. Group A streptococcus can also cause an individual to develop other infections such as cellulitis, impetigo, toxic shock syndrome, and necrotizing fasciitis. Group A streptococcus bacteria that cause strep throat have an incubation period of between two and five days.

An individual can pick up this type of bacteria from another individual who is infected or a carrier. Group A streptococcus bacteria is spread from one individual to another through close physical contact. Microscopic droplets of saliva are expelled into the air for another person to breathe or come in contact with when an infected individual sneezes or coughs. Strep throat can develop in an individual who shares utensils and drinking containers with another person who has strep throat.

Age Of Individual

Strep throat is an infection that is more likely to occur in individuals who are a part of certain age groups than it is in others. Strep throat is a rare occurrence in individuals younger than three years old and can cause serious complications when it develops during infancy and toddler years. Strep throat infections are most prevalent among individuals between five and fifteen years old.

This increased prevalence of strep throat in school-aged children is most likely the result of less immunity and multiple exposures to the group A streptococcus bacteria from crowded institutions. Children who attend school, summer camps, and daycare are more likely to contract strep throat infections than children who do not frequent such facilities. Newborn babies are much less likely than those in other age groups to develop strep throat because they have acquired immunity and antibodies transferred through the placenta from their mother.

Time Of Year

The changes in weather that occur during certain times of the year can contribute to the increased prevalence of strep throat infections in individuals of the general population. While strep throat infections can occur at any time during the year, they occur most commonly in the months of early spring, late fall, and winter. It is thought that this increase in prevalence occurs because children return to school in the fall, and stay in attendance through late spring. Another contributing factor related to the time of year is the amount of sleep school-aged children get during the school year.

Fewer hours of sleep overall causes the body to have less immunity against pathogens like group A streptococcus bacteria than it would otherwise. An additional consideration when it comes to the higher prevalence of strep throat during these times of the year is the fact strep throat can occur concurrently with other viral respiratory infections. An individual who has a common cold and strep throat simultaneously is more likely to be coughing and sneezing, expelling droplets of contaminated saliva into the air.

Infection Can Spread

An individual who develops a strep throat infection that is not treated promptly or correctly is at an increased risk of having complications like the infection spreading to other parts of their body. The strep throat infection can spread to the middle ear and produce otitis media, a middle ear infection. Group A streptococcus bacteria can spread into the central nervous system and cause the spinal canal lining and brain lining to become infected, an infection known as meningitis. Strep throat patients may develop pneumonia or an infection in their lungs as a complication of their illness.

A patient can develop a retro-pharyngeal abscess, an abscess around the tonsils, and a peritonsillar abscess, an abscess behind their throat, when their strep throat infection spreads. It is uncommon for an individual to develop another infection in the body due to the spread of strep throat when they are treated appropriately with antibiotics.

Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic fever is a serious disease with adverse effects on the skin, heart, joints, and brain. Rheumatic fever is a complication that occurs as a result of untreated scarlet fever and strep throat. This condition develops in an individual who has untreated strep throat because group A streptococcus bacteria remain in the tonsils and continuously trigger responses by the immune system. This continuous stimulation of the immune system causes it to become hyperactive and behave abnormally.

An abnormal immune response causes the immune system to attack other healthy tissues in the individual's body inappropriately. Symptoms of rheumatic fever that develop as a complication of strep throat include fever, tender joints, swollen joints, painless bumps underneath the skin, heart murmur, fatigue, painless rash with a ragged edge, involuntary body movements, and outbursts of abnormal or unusual behavior.

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