What is Diphtheria?

Diphtheria is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. It affects both adults and children, but is more commonly seen in children under the age of five. Symptoms of the disease include a thick, gray-white coating in the throat, a fever, a swollen neck and/or difficulty breathing. If left untreated, diphtheria can cause serious complications including heart damage, paralysis, and even death.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Diphtheria?

The symptoms of diphtheria are typically divided into two categories: upper respiratory symptoms and lower respiratory symptoms.

  • Upper respiratory symptoms include:
    • A thick, gray-white mucus coating in the throat/nasal passages
    • Sore throat
    • Swollen neck glands
  • Lower respiratory symptoms include:
    • Dry cough
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Shortness of breath

What Are The Complications Of Diphtheria?

Diphtheria can cause serious complications if left untreated. These complications can include:

  • Neuropathy (nerve damage)
  • Myocarditis (heart muscle inflammation)
  • Paralysis
  • Deafness
  • Heart failure
  • Death

How Is Diphtheria Diagnosis?

Diphtheria can be diagnosed through a number of methods, such as a throat swab, culture, and laboratory tests. A medical professional will take a swab from the throat or nose of the infected individual and then send it off to a laboratory for further evaluation. The lab tests will look for the presence of the Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacteria.

How Is Diphtheria Treated?

Diphtheria is typically treated with antibiotics, such as penicillin. These antibiotics help to get rid of the bacteria in the throat and help to reduce the risk of further complications. In addition, the infected individual may also be given a tetanus shot to help prevent any further infection. It is important to remember that even after the individual has been treated, they may still experience some of the lingering symptoms, such as sore throat, for several weeks.


It is important to remember that prevention is key when it comes to diphtheria. Vaccines are available that help to protect against this infectious disease. Contact your healthcare provider for more information on the right vaccine for you and your loved ones. Additionally, practicing good hygiene, such as washing your hands often and avoiding contact with those who are infected can also help to prevent the spread of this disease.