Skin infections are a common occurrence in individuals of all ages. A skin infection can result from a variety of causes, including bacteria, fungi, parasites, or viruses. These infections can cause a range of symptoms, including itching, redness, swelling, and pain, and can sometimes lead to more serious health issues if not treated promptly.
Types of skin infection
Skin infections can occur when bacteria, viruses, or fungi invade the skin and cause inflammation. Some common types of skin infections include:
- Impetigo: This is a highly contagious bacterial infection that can affect both adults and children. It typically appears as red sores on the face, especially around the nose and mouth
- Cellulitis: This is another bacterial infection that affects the deeper layers of the skin. It can cause redness, swelling, and pain, and may also lead to fever and chills
- Athlete's Foot: This is a fungal infection that usually affects the feet. It can cause itching, burning, and cracking of the skin between the toes and the soles of the feet
- Ringworm: This is also a fungal infection that can appear on any part of the body. It typically causes circular patches of red, scaly skin
- Herpes: This is a viral infection that can cause small blisters to form on the skin, usually around the mouth, genitals, or anus1
Causes of skin infection
Bacterial skin infections are usually caused by the Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria. These infections can appear as an open sore or boil and can be painful and difficult to treat. Warm compresses and antibiotics are commonly recommended for treatment.
- Fungal skin infections are caused by the overgrowth of fungi in the skin. Common types of fungal infections include athlete's foot, ringworm, and jock itch. These infections usually appear as red, itchy rashes and can be treated with antifungal medications
- Parasitic skin infections are caused by parasites that burrow into the skin. Scabies and lice infestations are examples of parasitic skin infections. These infections require treatment with medicated creams or shampoos to eliminate the parasites from the skin
- Viral skin infections are caused by viruses such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) or herpes simplex virus (HSV). HPV can cause warts on the hands and feet, while HSV can cause cold sores on the lips or genital herpes. These infections can be treated with antiviral medications to help control the symptoms and reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus to others2
Signs and symptoms of skin infection
Common symptoms of skin infections include redness, warmth, pain or tenderness, itching, rash or blisters, swelling, discharge, and fever. It's important to see a doctor if you suspect you have a skin infection, especially if the symptoms are severe or don't improve with home remedies.
Management and treatment for skin infection
Treatment for skin infections depends on the type and severity of the infection. Mild infections may be treated with topical creams or ointments, while more serious infections may require oral antibiotics or antifungal medications. It's important to seek medical attention if you suspect you have a skin infection, as untreated infections can lead to complications such as cellulitis or sepsis.
In addition to medical treatment, there are also several things you can do to prevent skin infections, such as washing your hands regularly, keeping your skin clean and dry, avoiding sharing towels or clothing with others, and wearing protective clothing when participating in activities that may expose your skin to bacteria or fungi.3
How skin infection diagnosed
There are different procedures to diagnose skin infections suggested by a doctor according to the location, size, shape, and colour of the skin abnormality. Tests that are used to identify skin problems are: Patch test, Culture, Scrapping, Wood light, Tzanck testing, Diascopy, Biopsy, etc.
How can I prevent skin infections?
Prevention is key when it comes to skin infections. Some measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of skin infections include frequently washing the hands, avoiding touching the face and eyes, wearing protective clothing in areas where infections are common, and taking good care of the skin by keeping it clean and moisturized.
Who are at risk of skin infection
Anyone can get a skin infection, but certain factors can increase your risk. These include having a weakened immune system, being elderly, having diabetes, using corticosteroid medications, living in areas with high humidity or heat, and having frequent exposure to water or chemicals.
How common is a skin infection
According to a study published in 2019, one in three people is affected with skin problems in the American population.
When should I see a doctor?
Some signs that indicate a skin infection has become severe and requires medical attention include:
- Increasing pain or tenderness around the affected area
- Swelling that doesn't go down or keeps getting worse
- Redness that spreads beyond the initial site of the infection
- Pus or other discharge from the affected area
- Fever or other signs of systemic infection, such as chills or sweating
If you experience any of these symptoms, it's important to seek medical attention right away. Your doctor will be able to diagnose the severity of your infection and recommend the appropriate treatment.5
Skin infections are a common occurrence that can be caused by a variety of factors. It is important to recognize the symptoms of skin infections and seek prompt treatment to prevent the infection from becoming more serious. Practising Practicing good hygiene and taking steps to prevent infection can also help reduce the risk of skin infections in the first place.
- [cited 2023 Apr 26]. Available https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/41/10/1373/345303#210109561
- Clebak KT, Malone MA. Skin infections. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice [Internet]. 2018 Sep 1 [cited 2023 Apr 26];45(3):433–54. Available from: https://www.primarycare.theclinics.com/article/S0095-4543(18)30041-1/fulltext
- Stevens DL, Bisno AL, Chambers HF, Dellinger EP, Goldstein EJC, Gorbach SL, et al. Practice guidelines for the diagnosis and management of skin and soft tissue infections: 2014 update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis. 2014 Jul 15;59(2):e10-52.
- Diagnosis of skin disorders - skin disorders [Internet]. MSD Manual Consumer Version. [cited 2023 Apr 26]. Available from: https://www.msdmanuals.com/home/skin-disorders/biology-of-the-skin/diagnosis-of-skin-disorders
- Skin conditions at a glance [Internet]. NCCIH. [cited 2023 Apr 26]. Available from: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/skin-conditions-at-a-glance