human heart model

Respiratory diphtheria can damage the heart muscle.

Complications from respiratory diphtheria (when the bacteria infect parts of the body involved in breathing) may include:

  • Airway blockage
  • Damage to the heart muscle (myocarditis)
  • Nerve damage (polyneuropathy)
  • Loss of the ability to move (paralysis)
  • Kidney failure

For some people, respiratory diphtheria can lead to death. Even with treatment, about 1 in 10 patients with respiratory diphtheria die. Without treatment, up to half of patients can die from the disease.