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A doctor systematically approaches treatment for group A strep. Once a patient has tested positive for group A strep, a doctor will administer penicillin or one of its variants to the patient. If treatment should fail, a different medication is tried, perhaps for a longer period. If a patient presents with necrosis at the site of infection, surgery is necessary to remove affected tissue before the patient begins antibiotics. Follow-up care may be required, especially if the infection has spread by the time it is diagnosed.
After a diagnosis, treatment for group A strep begins with an injection of penicillin. Amoxicilllin is used when the patient has an allergy to penicillin or when the patient is a small child. The injection is followed by a four- or ten-day course of oral antibiotics. This difference in length of treatment depends on which antibiotic the doctor prescribes. Injection followed by oral antibiotics is an effective form of treatment and cures the majority of cases.
In the event that initial treatment for group A strep fails, the cause is likely antibiotic resistance to penicillin. A doctor will prescribe a ten-day course of a newer antibiotic such as cephalosporin. In addition to new medication, the patient will have to have cultures taken from his or her throat once a week to ensure that the new antibiotics are effective. Letting the infection get out of control could be disastrous.
An untreated group A strep infection can spread beyond the throat and possibly become life threatening. The bacteria can cause secondary infections in the middle ear, blood, skin and tonsils. Organ systems such as the heart and kidneys are also at risk. Even if antibiotics cure the infection, permanent damage can result. Another side effect is tissue necrosis in the throat, a condition that requires immediate surgery.
Surgery as a treatment for group A strep, though rare, is necessary when the infection causes destruction of the soft tissues at the infection site. As the patient is given intravenous antibiotics, a surgeon will remove affected tissue. Recovery time depends on the amount of tissue removed. After surgery, the patient will require close care and follow-up treatment.
Though follow-up treatment is not considered for patients whose initial treatment for group A strep succeeds, those whose infection spread or those who had surgery require it. A patient who experiences severe symptoms should expect many follow-up visits to his or her doctor in the months following treatment. A doctor may also suggest testing family and friends of an individual who contracted a resistant form of group A strep. Doing so would catch the infection early, reducing the severity of symptoms by starting antibiotics as soon as possible.