Symptoms and Signs of Leptospirosis

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Medically Reviewed on 8/6/2021

Doctor's Notes on Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium. Leptospirosis is transmitted to humans by direct exposure to urine or tissue of an infected animal.

Leptospirosis typically progresses through two phases of nonspecific symptoms. The first phase of leptospirosis includes nonspecific flu-like symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, eye pain with bright lights, followed by chills and fever. Other symptoms include red and watery eyes, and symptoms tend to improve by the fifth to ninth day. The second phase of leptospirosis begins after a few days of feeling well. The initial symptoms recur with fever and aching with the stiffness of the neck. Other symptoms in the second phase of leptospirosis may include serious inflammation of the nerves to the eyes, brain, spinal column (meningitis), or other nerves. Right upper area abdominal pain may occur. Less common symptoms relate to disease of the liver (called Weil’s syndrome, characterized by yellowing of the eyes, or jaundice), lungs, kidneys, and heart.

What Is the Treatment for Leptospirosis?

The treatment for leptospirosis involves a course of antibiotics. Examples of antibiotics used to treat the condition include penicillin and doxycycline. Antibiotics should be given as early as possible in the course of the disease. Oral antibiotics are usually given, but people with more severe symptoms of leptospirosis may require intravenous administration of antibiotics.

Other treatments in addition to antibiotics may include medications to control symptoms, such as to relieve fever and pain.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.