Minocin is pretty, Minocin is good
August 8, 2008 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Husband diagnosed with long-term staph infection. Is this MRSA? And should/can I get tested to see if I have it too?

Background: My husband has had a bad rash for almost a year and after six months, I finally made him go to the doctor. One round of antibiotics sort of helped, but the rash came back worse a few months later. A GP and a dermatologist have given him three rounds of various antibiotics (Amoxicillin, Bactrim which resulted in a bad allergic reaction, and Levaquin) before finally running a stress test to figure out what this is resistant to. They've got him on something else this time (Minocycline), but it'll be two weeks before we know if it worked. It's a "penicillin-resistant" staphylococcus infection. Is this the MRSA everyone is talking about? Are MRSA and garden-variety staph two different things?

As for me, I've been experiencing fairly bad chest pains (lasting a few hours each) about three or four times a month for a few months now, pains which I chalked up to acid reflux. A glass of milk helps, but laying on my chest works better. My hips are so achy every morning that I hobble like an old lady at 25 and I feel generally crappy. These are all symptoms of a bad MRSA infection. And from what I've heard, sometimes people don't discover it's MRSA until they're gravely ill. I don't know if my symptoms are enough to merit a doctor's visit, though. Is there a test for MRSA? Should I get it? Is that what I should tell the receptionist when she asks the reason for my visit? (I'm already iffy about my GP--I went in to rule out a thyroid issue that might've caused recent weight gain issues and was sent home with a script for anti-depressants and an order to lose weight. I don't want to get the same pat on the head treatment this time around, considering MRSA is some nasty stuff that can result in ER visits and worse.)

I feel so incredibly uninformed by both of our doctors that I am not sure what to do except switch doctors and try this all over again with someone else (which is impractical, as our deductible is very high and we're paying for every single visit and test out of pocket). Is this my hypochondria or anxiety or is this is a "VISIT THE DOCTOR NOW!" situation? I'm incredibly frustrated and embarrassed and I don't know what to do. Googling "MRSA" is not helping my fears. YANAD, but it helps to know what to expect, what I should ask when I visit the doc and what others of you might have experienced in a similar situation.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (4 answers total)
MRSA is just a staph infection that is drug resistant. Generally, it appears on the skin and would be incredibly unlikely for you to have internal MRSA.

That having been said, you should get yourself to a doctor. Chest pains are nothing to ignore.

posted by Sophie1 at 10:52 AM on August 8, 2008

Most people are MRSA carriers - from what I understand it's usually a cutaneous infection that gets ignored until it becomes systemic and it's too late. Whether your husband had MRSA or not, I couldn't say.

My mom's cardiologist says that women can have ill-defined symptoms of heart attack - they are often passed off as digestive issues, stress, tiredness, etc.

Go to a doctor, go to an ER - tell them that you are having chest pains. That will put you on the fast track to getting your heart checked out (which is important) and while there you can bring up the MRSA angle and point out that you're worried about that too.

I am, emphatically, not a doctor.
posted by oreonax at 11:08 AM on August 8, 2008

First a caveat about this and other answers: You are very unlikely to get a useful answer to your question, because no one here has access to your or your husband's medical records. So all of the responses will be uninformed about your particular situation. The single best answer, which you already know, is that if you are genuinely concerned about this and you have not had satisfactory treatment from your current physicians, go see a different medical professional, even if you are paying out of pocket.

That said, here are a few general answers:

It's a "penicillin-resistant" staphylococcus infection. Is this the MRSA everyone is talking about? Are MRSA and garden-variety staph two different things?

It might or might not be MRSA; there is no way to know unless you perform a specific test to determine whether it is MRSA or not. MRSA is a variety of Staphylococcus aureus (staph) that is resistant to several kinds of antibiotics, including penicillin. It is a very serious thing to have, particularly if you are immunocompromised, but it is not quite the flesh-eating superbug death sentence that the media makes it out to be.

I don't know if my symptoms are enough to merit a doctor's visit, though. Is there a test for MRSA? Should I get it? Is that what I should tell the receptionist when she asks the reason for my visit?

The symptoms that you have described definitely merit seeing a doctor, whether or not they have anything to do with MRSA. When you see the doctor, it is perfectly reasonable to mention your husband's medical history. A good doctor will make an informed decision about whether it is relevant or not. The reason for your visit should be the symptoms that you have described (and any others that you haven't), and you should also mention your exposure to a drug-resistant form of S. aureus.

My only advice on how to behave when you see a doctor is the following:

(1) Be as informative as you possibly can about your symptoms, your medical history, and your husband's medical history. If you need to write this out ahead of time, do so. If you have any relevant paperwork from other doctors visits, bring it. Your doctor's diagnosis depends in large part on the information you provide; the better you can do, the better s/he can do.

(2) Be firm about getting your questions addressed. If you don't understand something, ask politely. If you are concerned about something, ask politely. If you feel your concerns aren't being addressed, return to them.

(3) Don't expect conclusive answers. Ideally, your new physician will be able to rule out MRSA (or, less ideally, conclusively diagnose MRSA). But they may not know immediately, and may have to run additional tests. This can be frustrating, I know, but in many cases its necessary.

(4) Finally, don't let the immediate expense of an additional doctor visit stop you. If you or your husband do have MRSA or some other serious problem, the sooner you can get it properly diagnosed and treated, the better.
posted by googly at 12:19 PM on August 8, 2008

Eliminate wheat and dairy from your diet for a couple of weeks and see if that helps.

It may not have anything to do with it, but it's possible you've got a sensitivity to one or both of these things, and it's great to find out if that's what's bothering you.
posted by zadcat at 4:57 PM on August 8, 2008

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