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Alternative NamesTuberculous adenitis
Definition Return to top
Scrofula is a tuberculous infection of the skin on the neck.
Causes Return to top
Scrofula in adults is most often caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In children, it is usually caused by Mycobacterium scrofulaceum or Mycobacterium avium.
Infection with mycobacteria is usually caused by breathing in air that is contaminated by these organisms.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
Tests to diagnose scrofula include:
Treatment Return to top
When infection is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, treatment usually involves 9 - 12 months of antibiotics. Several antibiotics need to be used at once. Common antibiotics for scrofula include:
When infection is caused by another type of bacteria (which often occurs in children), therapy usually involves antibiotics such as rifampin, ethambutol, and clarithromycin.
Surgery is not usually needed. It is only done when medicines do not work well.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
With treatment, patients usually make a complete recovery.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if your child has a swelling or group of swellings in the neck. Scrofula can occur in children who have not been exposed to someone with tuberculosis.
Prevention Return to top
People who have been exposed to someone with tuberculosis of the lungs should have a PPD or Tine test.
Many occupations, such as nursing and medicine, require practitioners to get regular skin tests. People who immigrate to the United States from areas of the world where tuberculosis is common are also screened with such skin tests.
References Return to top
Pastermack MS, Swartz MN. Lymphadenitis and lymphangitis. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Disease. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2005: chap 88.
Starke JR, Munoz FM. Tuberculosis (mycobacterium tuberculosis). In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 212.
Powell DA. Nontuberculous mycobacteria. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 214.Update Date: 9/28/2008 Updated by: Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Instructor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.