Bacterial skin infections are common, ranging from mild and bothersome to potentially fatal. The majority of these infections are caused by two types of bacteria: Staphylococcus aureus or a variant of Streptococcus (the same bacterium responsible for strep throat).
An infection can take many different forms depending on the location, the bacterial type and even the age of the affected person. Many bacterial infections can be treated by a general practitioner. More complex, it may be necessary to call on a specialist dermatologist or a hematologist.
Cellulite is a bacterial infection that affects the two deepest layers of the skin: the dermis and the subcutaneous tissue. Cellulitis is associated with both Staphylococcus and Streptococcus, although many other types of bacteria may be the cause.
Cellulite usually develops in areas where the skin has been broken, such as near ulcers or recent surgical wounds.
Erysipelas is a bacterial infection that occurs in the two upper layers of the skin. It is also commonly known as St. Anthony’s Fire, as it can be very painful and cause an intense burning sensation.
Erysipelas resembles cellulite but affects different layers of the skin. Streptococcus is the usual culprit.
With erysipelas, the skin infection is usually very red and swollen, and there will be a clearly defined boundary between normal and infected skin tissue.
Folliculitis is a relatively common infection of hair follicles. It can be caused by bacteria and fungi and is characterized by tiny red bumps filled with pus.
Folliculitis is more common in people with acne. Shaving can increase the risk. Although most cases resolve themselves without treatment, serious infections can cause permanent hair loss or scarring and may require antibiotic treatment.
Folliculitis in a spa
Folliculitis in a spa is an infection of the hair follicles caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
The bacterium is commonly found in whirlpools, spas, water slides, physiotherapy ponds or even loofah sponges.
Children are more likely than adults (partly because their skin is more vulnerable and they tend to stay in the water longer).
While folliculitis involves the infection of a hair follicle, a boil is an infection of the entire pilosebaceous unit.
The pilosebaceous units consist of the stem, the follicle, the sebaceous gland and the erecting pileur muscle. They are located throughout the body, with the exception of the palms, soles and lower lip.
A boil (also called boiling) is most often found on the face, chest and upper neck and can develop into an abscess if left untreated. Warm compresses can often help the boil to ripen and drain. In severe cases, it may be necessary to prick the boil in the doctor’s office.
A carbuncle is a group of several densely packaged boils. This is a much more serious infection than a boil that usually requires medical attention.
Anthrax tends to appear in the same areas as boils, but can also develop on the buttocks, thighs, groin or underarms.
Impetigo is a bacterial infection of the upper layer of the skin called epidermis. It is a very contagious disease and more common in children than in adults.
The seal of impetigo is a honey-colored crust. Wounds usually occur around the nose and mouth, but can spread to other parts of the body through skin-to-skin contact, clothing, and towels. Impetigo can be caused by Streptococcus and Staphylococcus aureus.
Impetigo is usually treated with a topical antibiotic rather than orally.
Erythrasma is a bacterial infection of the skin that develops in areas where the skin touches the skin (such as the armpits, groin or between the toes). Because of its location and appearance, erythrasma is often mistaken for fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and jock itch.
If an infection in these areas does not respond to antifungal therapy, you may actually have erythritis and require short-term antibiotic therapy.
HS is a complex and often persistent bacterial infection involving the sweat glands of the underarms, groin, buttocks or scalp. The infection can also develop under the woman’s breasts.
Suppurative hidradenitis occurs only after puberty. The infection can sometimes persist for years and be manifested by small painful bumps that tear and give off an odor. Over time, these ruptures can lead to unsightly tunnels in the skin.
Although there is no cure for hidradenitis suppurativa, a combination of antibiotics, steroid injections, hormones and immunosuppressive medications like Humira (adalimumab) can help manage and alleviate symptoms .
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a serious and difficult-to-treat bacterium that is resistant to standard antibiotic therapy.
It often causes a mild ulcerative skin sore, but can sometimes lead to serious infections and spread (disseminate) into the blood to infect other organs such as the lungs or urinary tract.
Treatment may involve several antibiotics such as (Bactrim) sulfamethoxazole, Cleocin (clindamycin), trimethoprim and rifampin, depending on the severity of the infection.
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