What is cat scratch disease?
Cat-scratch disease is an infection that is believed to be caused by bacteria carried on the claws of cats. The infection spreads to lymph glands (nodes) nearest the scratch. Lymph glands are masses of tissue that are part of the body’s immune system which fights infection.
Cat-scratch disease is rather rare. Most cases seem to happen in early autumn and the middle of winter.
How common is cat scratch disease?
It occurs more often in children and young adults. About 80% of cases occur in people younger than 21, mostly between 3 and 12 years old. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of cat scratch disease?
Symptoms will appear a few days after the scratch. First thing is a lump with or without pus or fluid forms at the injury. From 1 to 3 weeks later, lymph glands near the lump begin to swell. The swelling means that the number of white blood cells (lymphocytes), which are the infection-fighting cells, is increasing and they are attacking the bacteria. There may be a low-grade fever fatigue, and headache.
There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
The infected glands may heal themselves if the infection is mild. You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Lymph glands start swelling for no reason.
- The swelling gets worse within 2 to 4 weeks.
- The skin near the swelling feel hard and do not sink down when you touch it.
- Prolonged fever, night sweating or lose weight for no reason.
What causes cat scratch disease?
The cause of the infection is a type of bacteria called Bartonella henselae. Most domestic cats have the infection but rarely show any signs of being infected.
What increases your risk for cat scratch disease?
There are many risk factors for cat scratch disease, such as:
- Having or playing with cats.
- Let your cat licks a wound on your skin.
- Lack of hygiene.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. ALWAYS consult your doctor.
How is cat scratch disease diagnosed?
The doctor will diagnose the disease on the basis of the history of a recent cat scratch and the look of the scratch, with reddened crusted blisters. The doctor may also see swollen lymph nodes filled with pus and draining through the skin near the scratch.
How is cat scratch disease treated?
If the body’s immune system is working well, the infection usually goes away with antibiotic treatment in 1 to 2 weeks. The body’s own immune system can take care of the infection without antibiotics in very mild cases.
People with poor infection fighting ability (e.g., with HIV or AIDS) may develop a more severe infection and generally need antibiotics.
Rest is best until the fever subsides and energy returns. No special diet is needed, but drinking more fluids during the fever helps. Using heat on the blisters and taking pain relievers also help symptoms.
Lifestyle Changes & Home Remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies help manage cat scratch disease?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with cat scratch disease:
- Rest until the few subsides and energy relents.
- Take antibiotics, if they’re prescribed, until they’re gone
- Watch scratches from a cat for signs of infection.
- Don’t handle strange animals.
If you have any questions, Please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: August 19, 2016 | Last Modified: February 3, 2017
Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Download Version.