What is Ludwig's Angina?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
An individual with an advanced case of Ludwig's angina may require intubation.
An individual with an advanced case of Ludwig's angina may require intubation.

Ludwig's angina is an infection under the tongue at the bottom of the mouth, which can become quite serious if it is not given the proper treatment. It is most often caused by failure to treat infected teeth in the mouth. Bacteria can spread to the tissue under the tongue, as a result. Alternately, this area of the mouth can become infected if an injury occurs in the mouth and is not treated with antibiotics.

Redness, swelling, and pain in the neck are signs of Ludwig's angina.
Redness, swelling, and pain in the neck are signs of Ludwig's angina.

The biggest danger with Ludwig's angina is that the affected tissues will begin to swell and cause the airway to be obscured. This can mean that breathing becomes inhibited quickly. Other symptoms that are noted with Ludwig's angina include excessive drooling, noted swelling and/or redness around the neck, pain in the neck, and earache. People may have a fever and some appeared to be confused or have rapid mood changes. Infection can also cause flulike symptoms, and in particular people may feel weak, tired, or be very sleepy. Before swelling blocks the airway, people usually do feel that breathing is more challenging and they may struggle to get air.

Ludwig's angina may cause a person to feel tired or sleepy.
Ludwig's angina may cause a person to feel tired or sleepy.

Caught in very early stages, the only treatment that might be required is antibiotics to treat the infection, with follow-up to treat any dental problems that may be present. Some people will need much greater intervention if swelling in the airway is so pronounced that breathing is labored or inhibited. There are several potential choices for airway support. A person might require intubation, breathing tube in the throat via the mouth, or might need some oxygen support with a mask or through the nose. In very severe cases, tracheotomy is required because swelling is too great to intubate or allow passage of air from mouth or nose to the lungs; tracheotomy is typically a treatment of last resort, and is usually removed once the infection is cleared.

Individuals suffering from Ludwig's angina may eventually experience difficulty breathing, as swelling of the tissue under the tongue may cut off the patient's airways.
Individuals suffering from Ludwig's angina may eventually experience difficulty breathing, as swelling of the tissue under the tongue may cut off the patient's airways.

Prevention of Ludwig's angina isn’t always possible. It does seem more common in people who have serious illnesses like diabetes or HIV. Getting proper dental care may help minimize risk, since it is most often due to abscess or tooth infection. Regular dental cleanings and exams may thus prove the best preventative.

Some people may wonder why Ludwig's angina is so named, since angina is typically associated with pain in the chest. Angina can also mean to squeeze or to strangle. In the case of this illness, continued swelling can literally strangle the patient, cutting off all air. Those who suspect they have this illness should definitely see a doctor right away.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent InfoBloom contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent InfoBloom contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon299456

I've recently come out of hospital after five weeks following treatment for Ludwig's Angina. As above, mine started with an infected tooth which had to be removed. I also found the situation very scare. I had loads of tubes going in and out of my body and also various drugs to combat the bacteria, etc.

While in the hospital they also found an ulcer and that I'm now diabetic. One thing leads to another so please look after yourselves.

anon128311

I actually had this condition about two years ago and had to have a trach. It all started with a tooth that was infected and I didn't take care of it. The lower third molars are the ones affected that can cause this. This was the scariest experience of my life. Lesson to be learned: Take care of your teeth!

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    • An individual with an advanced case of Ludwig's angina may require intubation.
      An individual with an advanced case of Ludwig's angina may require intubation.
    • Redness, swelling, and pain in the neck are signs of Ludwig's angina.
      Redness, swelling, and pain in the neck are signs of Ludwig's angina.
    • Ludwig's angina may cause a person to feel tired or sleepy.
      Ludwig's angina may cause a person to feel tired or sleepy.
    • Individuals suffering from Ludwig's angina may eventually experience difficulty breathing, as swelling of the tissue under the tongue may cut off the patient's airways.
      Individuals suffering from Ludwig's angina may eventually experience difficulty breathing, as swelling of the tissue under the tongue may cut off the patient's airways.
    • Getting proper dental care may help minimize risk of Ludwig's Angia.
      Getting proper dental care may help minimize risk of Ludwig's Angia.
    • Symptoms of Ludwig's angina may include earache.
      Symptoms of Ludwig's angina may include earache.
    • People with Ludwig's angina may experience fever.
      People with Ludwig's angina may experience fever.