Cat scratch disease is a bacterial infection caused by the Bartonella henselae bacterium and is spread when an infected cat licks an individual's open wounds, or when the cat bites or scratches someone's hand enough to break the surface of their skin. Symptoms usually begin to appear around three to fourteen days after the skin has been broken with swelling and redness around the infected site being the most common symptom to first appear. Most felines will not exhibit any signs of cat scratch disease, but a high number of them are Bartonella henselae carriers.
Fever And Headache
A low-grade fever, which means less than 102 degrees Fahrenheit, is one of the first symptoms to appear in cat scratch disease. Long-term fevers can have a long-lasting impact on an individual's neurological system. A prolonged fever causes an abnormal rise in body temperature, known as hyperthermia. Since children are more prone to contracting cat scratch disease through cat bites and scratches, it is imperative to control their fevers as fevers are extremely dangerous in children. Children between six months and five years old are susceptible to fever-induced seizures (febrile seizures) if they suffer from a fever for a long period. Headaches can also accompany a fever and range from dull to severe. Frequently, headaches can be cured with rest, but more severe migraines can only be helped with the assistance of medication.
Bumps Or Blisters
Bumps or blisters can form in those infected with cat scratch disease. It is common for pus-filled blisters to form right around the scratch or bite site. Round bumps can also be present on the body with the onset of cat scratch disease, and the lymph nodes can also become very large and swollen. Swollen lymph nodes are a sign the body is fighting off an infection or illness. The reason why the lymph nodes swell is because they contain immune cells called lymphocytes. During sickness, the body must create more lymphocytes to ward of any threat of infection. Overproduction causes them to swell temporarily, returning to normal size once the infection is gone.
Blisters can take longer to heal in cat scratch disease patients. It is common for the blisters surrounding a cat scratch or bite to take a little longer to heal, and they may continue to get bigger a few days after the injury.
The symptoms for cat scratch disease can be very similar to those of a regular cough or cold. Many individuals who have been infected with this disease often mistakenly believe they have a cough because a lot of the onset of symptoms mirror those of the common cold. However, cat scratch disease is much more serious than a sore throat and can lead to more threatening symptoms such as encephalitis and endocarditis. Encephalitis is swelling of the brain, while endocarditis is inflammation of the lining of the heart. Both of these conditions are lethal and are extremely difficult to cure.
Rapid weight loss is not unusual in those infected with cat scratch disease. This is because of the fact this infection causes severe fatigue and loss of appetite. The poor appetite can generally be caused by the fever and headache that normally accompany cat scratch disease.
Felines do not usually show any symptoms when infected with cat scratch disease. However, it is estimated forty percent of cats are infected with the disease yet remain asymptomatic. Felines become infected with cat scratch disease through flea bites, or from being bitten or scratched by other cats who are also infected.
Fighting off any infection can take an enormous toll on the human body. So what happens within the body during an infection? Basically, the immune system immediately springs into action and starts deploying white blood cells and antibodies to start fighting the infection. Many of the symptoms of an infection occur as a result of the body trying to fight the infection. Bacteria such as Bartonella henselae make individuals sick by disrupting cell function. The bacteria then multiply rapidly, generating a massive immune response and causing an individual to start experiencing symptoms.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
When an individual is dealing with cat scratch disease, the lymph nodes (round immune system organs, often called glands) closest to the site of the cat scratch will typically swell about a week or two after infection. For the most part, the lymph nodes that swell are in the neck or under the armpit, however, when cat scratch disease starts in the leg, the patient's lymph nodes in their groin are often affected. The swollen lymph nodes are often warm to the touch and the skin red. Swollen lymph nodes are the hallmark symptom of cat scratch disease in children, though thankfully illness for kids is typically mild. The swelling of the lymph nodes in cat scratch disease usually subsides within two to four months, although it is possible for it to last longer than this.
Loss Of Appetite
As mentioned earlier, a loss of appetite is often present in cases of cat scratch disease. The decrease or loss of appetite when ill with a condition like cat scratch disease is due to the body's immune system response. When an individual falls ill, the immune system will start sending hormones to the brain. This triggers a number of different responses and symptoms, including a decrease in the individual's appetite. This loss of appetite often results in another symptom of cat scratch disease, namely unexplained weight loss, which was discussed previously.
Feeling Of Malaise
Many individuals simply feel unwell when they are ill with a wide range of different illnesses, including cat scratch disease. This general feeling of being unwell is typically summed up by referring to it as malaise. Unfortunately, it can be quite difficult to pin down an exact cause of malaise, since this symptom can appear with countless illnesses. Besides an individual simply not feeling well, malaise can also manifest as discomfort, overall weakness, as well as the inability to regain energy and feel better, even after getting proper rest.
Like malaise, body aches are an incredibly common symptom in many illnesses, including the flu, which is the most popular condition that causes body aches. It is crucial to understand, however, body aches are not the same thing as a muscle ache due to strain or another injury. Body aches can be isolated to one part of the body, but more often than not, body aches due to an illness like cat scratch disease (and the flu) occur throughout large areas of the body. In fact, some individuals may describe their aches as covering the entire body. Body aches are aggravated by many elements, including standing or walking for long periods.
When cat scratch disease is quite severe, patients will often have a rash at the site of the cat scratch. They closely accompany the bumps that have also developed as a result of this condition. This rash can also be the result of itching the bumps in question, since swelling and redness can often result in itching in many different conditions. Cat scratch disease is certainly not an exception to this! It should be noted that, like always, scratching the bumps and the rash will make the symptoms worse. This is particularly unfortunate in cat scratch disease, since the rash is indicative of a more serious case, which means aggravation could mean more medical attention and treatment is necessary, and the risk of complications can rise as well.
When cat scratch disease leads to neurological complications, seizures can be one of several potential symptoms. These neurological issues only occur in rare cases, but they should be treated as quickly as possible because they can be signs of very serious issues. Seizures occur when there's abnormal electricity in the brain. Rather than creating normal connections and synapses, strange electrical signals are sent through the nervous system. The most commonly recognized type of seizure is a grand mal, which causes muscle convulsions and jerking. Absence seizures occur when an affected individual ceases to be aware of the world for a few seconds. There are also sensory seizures that can cause strange sights, sounds, and smells.
Endocarditis, as mentioned briefly earlier can be a symptom of cat scratch disease, though it doesn't always occur. This condition causes the heart's inner lining, called the endocardium, to become infected. This lining covers the heart valves and heart chambers. When endocarditis occurs as a result of cat scratch disease, it's usually because infectious germs have spread from the initial scratch to the heart through the bloodstream. They then attach to the heart and cause damage. Though a rarer complication from cat scratch disease, endocarditis requires very quick medical treatment to keep the infection from destroying the patient's heart valves or damaging them beyond repair. Without treatment, endocarditis is often deadly.
Meningoencephalitis is one of the rarer neurological complications that can occur as a result of cat scratch disease. The condition's name is because the symptoms mimic those of both meningitis and encephalitis. Meningitis occurs when the meninges become inflamed or infected, while encephalitis occurs when the brain becomes inflamed or infected. There are a few different signs to look out for. They tend to be neurological issues like personality changes, thinking problems, and strange behavior. Patients might also have increased light sensitivity, pain when moving their neck, fever, and headaches. It's important to treat meningoencephalitis quickly because of its potential severity and lasting damage.
Encephalopathy refers to damage, malfunction, or disease of the brain. It can come with a wide range of symptoms. Some presentations might be very mild, but others can be severe and life-threatening. Like seizures, encephalopathy is one of the rarer neurological complications of cat scratch disease that tends to occur when infection travels to the brain or nearby tissues. Many kinds of encephalopathy can be halted as long as they're treated quickly. Some of the symptoms of brain damage can even be reversed. The core component of encephalopathy is an alteration to the affected individual's mental state. In most cases, encephalopathy is not a disease by itself, but instead is a symptom of an underlying medical issue like cat scratch disease.