Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Head/neck Infections

Head/neck Infections

There are several types of infections that attack the neck and head areas. Some are cancer related and others are caused by bacterial infection. Among these types of diseases are:

Nontuberculous Mycobacterial (NTM) - is actually the term used for the family of germs (bacilli) that cause infections and pulmonary diseases with the exception of tuberculosis and Hansen’s disease (leprosy). In general, diseases caused by NTM are not contagious but the reason infected persons get sick remains unknown. Doctors believe that patients with defects in the lungs and immune systems are more susceptible to developing an infection in the head or neck that is associated with NTM.

Meningitis - an inflammation causing disease that attacks the membrane and cerebrospinal fluid located in the areas around the brain and spinal cord. This inflammation is caused by a viral infection; there is evidence that bacterial and fungal infections can also be linked to the onset of meningitis. Recovery from this disease will vary but the seriousness of this condition should not be taken lightly. Meningitis can be a life-threatening illness with very harsh side effects which can include hearing loss, blindness, speech and learning disabilities and brain damage.

Neck Lumps - can occur when there is swelling in the neck region caused by any number of conditions. Neck lumps are generally caused by viral or bacterial infections and can be the first signs of serious diseases or illnesses. Bacterial causes of neck lumps could indicate: tuberculosis, strep throat, peritonsillar abscess (requiring the removal of tonsils) and cat scratch disease. Viral causes of neck lumps could indicate life-threatening illnesses such as AIDS, HIV, herpes and viral pharyngitis. Some forms of cancer, such as in the thyroid, will usually be diagnosed after finding a lump in the neck that has become swollen. If a neck lump is found, the best advice is to immediately seek medical attention as these can also be an indicator of several malignant diseases such as Hodgkin’s disease, Leukemia, and mouth cancer (metastatic oral lesions).

Neck abscess - is characterized by a collection of pus resulting from an infection in the neck. When the volume of pus increases it also increases the pressure on the structure of the neck causing tissues to expand and block the throat, tongue and trachea from performing their necessary functions. This is especially harmful for children and there are three kinds of neck abscesses that children are susceptible to: retropharyngeal abscess, peritonsillar abscess and Ludwig’s angina. Abscess in the neck usually begin with viral or bacterial infection caused by a cold, ear infections, tonsillitis or from chronic sinus problems that spreads behind the neck and throat causing inflammation.