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The disease known as actinomycosis is caused by infectious bacteria, and can lead to abscesses in the mouth and lungs. If left untreated, it may even spread to the bone, muscles, and skin. Usually, the primary actinomycosis treatment involves the use of antibiotics, although other therapies may be used as needed. The extent and type of actinomycosis treatments depends on the location and progression of the disease.
Bacteria responsible for this disease are quite sensitive to penicillin and other related drugs. The most widely used actinomycosis treatment is penicillin G. Penicillin weakens the cell walls of bacteria, leaving them unable to divide. It can also kill these germs directly, by causing them to burst in response to pressure. This is often the only type of therapy needed to rid the body of actinomycosis bacteria.
When an individual is allergic to penicillin, a different actinomycosis treatment may be used. Doxycyclin is a common alternative antibiotic to be prescribed. Clindamycin is a common choice as well, although it will not treat companion infections. Alternately, there are drugs that deprive bacteria of a compound that they need to survive. These drugs are known as sulfonamides, and they are typically given several times a day, at two to four grams each day when used as an alternate treatment for patients suffering from this disease.
Sulfonamide allergies are more common than penicillin allergies, so they are considered a second-line actinomycosis treatment. Another medication, cephtriaxone, can be used when actinomycosis bacteria, or companion bacteria, are resistant to penicillin. Cephtriaxone is used in severe cases of the disease, and when it occurs alongside other bacterial infections. The course of therapy for this disease often takes long periods of time. Antibiotics must be administered daily, many times for several months, or even as long as a year to effectively treat the disease.
Depending on the extent and cause of the infection, other steps for treatment may need to be taken. Intrauterine devices (IUDs) used for birth control can sometimes lead to actinomycosis when used for long periods of time. In the event that the disease is related to an IUD, it must be taken out immediately.
Surgery may be necessary to treat this infection, at times. Large abscesses can be cut open and drained. Sinus tissue and fibrotic lesions may sometimes be surgically removed. If the lesions are compressing certain cavities, or obstructing channels like the ureter, doctors may use surgery to relieve this pressure and improve overall functioning. Surgery is typically used as an adjunct to antibiotic actinomycosis treatment, and not as an alternative.