Written by Dr. Sangamithra, MBBS | 
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Sunil Shroff, MBBS, MS, FRCS (UK), D. Urol (Lond) on Apr 08, 2016

Complications of Diphtheria

The diphtheria toxin can damage the heart, nervous system, kidneys, or other organs resulting in various problems such as

  • Breathing problem: the tough pseudomembrane that is formed as a result of the toxin is composed of dead cells, bacteria and other substances. This membrane, or covering, is dangerous because it obstructs breathing.
  • Heart damage: the toxin causes inflammation of the heart muscle resulting in myocarditis, which may progress, to congestive heart failure and sudden death.
  • Kidney damage: The diphtheria toxin may damage the kidneys, affecting their ability to filter wastes from the blood.
  • Nerve damage: The toxin can also cause nerve damage, targeting certain nerves such as those to the throat, making swallowing difficult. Sometimes it causes paralysis of the muscles involved in breathing and results in troubled breathing.

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