Skin Care Problems Infections

The skin works as a diligent, protective barrier that protects us from external substances that can be harmful to our health. However, because the skin is porous and constantly comes into contact with the elements, it is susceptible to a variety of possible infections. Any skin infection that a person gets stems from one of four different possible causes:

  • a bacteria
  • a fungus
  • a parasites
  • a virus.

As a result, the symptoms and associated treatments depend on which of the above factors is responsible for the skin infection.

Bacterial Skin Infections

While many different types of healthy bacteria live on the skin, at times, harmful bacteria can penetrate the pores and cause us to suffer from a bacterial skin infection. Depending on the type of bacteria, the skin infection can range from being mild and treatable to seriously life-threatening.

People susceptible to skin infections caused by bacteria include:

  • diabetics
  • HIV and AIDS patients
  • those with cuts, sunburns or open wounds
  • those with weakened immune systems.

Because antibiotics are effective at killing harmful bacteria, they are one of the primary treatments used to fight bacterial skin infections.

Here is a look at some of the most common types of bacterial skin infections:

  • cellulitis: Marked by skin inflammation and tenderness, cellulitis is typically caused by strep or staph infections, animal bites or wounds exposed to contaminated water. Treatment generally revolves around taking antibiotics and applying cold compresses to the infection site.
  • folliculitis: Characterized by damaged hair and pus-filled hair follicles, folliculitis occurs when bacteria has infected and inflamed the hair follicles. Folliculitis treatment includes taking antibiotics, draining pus and keeping the affected area clean.
  • staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome: Marked by peeling skin, blistering and fevers, this bacterial skin infection usually affects young children and those with weakened immune systems. Antibiotics are the only form of treatment for this condition.

Fungal Skin Infections

Like bacteria, healthy fungi live on the skin’s surface, especially in the moister areas of the body. However, when harmful fungi penetrate the skin, it can cause fungal skin infections. In general, fungal infections tend to spread easily over the body: Just touching an affected area and then touching another part of the body can cause the skin infection to spread.

Common fungal skin infections include:

  • candidiasis: Generally known as a yeast infection, candidiasis can affect the mouth, nails and genitals. Symptoms include white patches of skin, redness, itchiness and pain, depending on the area affected. Prescription creams and/or mouthwashes are used to treat yeast infections.
  • ringworm: Also referred to as tinea infections, ringworm causes red, itchy, scaly, ring-like blotches on the affected area. Jock itch and athlete’s foot are two of the most common forms of ringworm. Treatment revolves around anti-fungal medications and creams, along with steroids to reduce inflammation in more serious cases.
  • tinea versicolor: Typically affecting the torso, tinea versicolor causes a series of lighter or darker blotches on the skin that won’t tan. Taking anti-fungal medication and applying dandruff shampoo to the skin are the two methods of treating this fungal skin infection.

Parasitic Skin Infections

Like bacteria and fungi, some parasites live on the skin without causing us any health problems. Yet, the presence of harmful parasites can lead to the following parasitic skin infections:

  • creeping eruption: Caused by hookworms, creeping eruption infects humans when they come into contact with infected pet feces. This parasitic skin infection causes intense itchiness on the lower body. Liquid thiabendazole and prescription topical creams are used to treat creeping eruption.
  • lice: Caused by the presence of tiny insects, lice causes the affected area to be severely itchy. This highly contagious parasitic skin infection is treated with medicated shampoo and soaps, along with a thorough washing of all clothing and materials the affected person has touched.
  • scabies: Caused by a mite infestation, scabies is a highly contagious parasitic infection that causes the skin to erupt with tiny, itchy red bumps. Treatment for scabies includes prescription ointments and antihistamines to relieve itchiness.

Viral Skin Infections

The three main types of viruses that cause skin infections include the herpes simplex virus, the papillomavirus and the poxvirus. Because there is no cure for viruses, treatment for viral conditions focuses on relieving the symptoms. Common viral skin infections include:

  • cold sores: Caused by the herpes virus, cold sores cause small, itchy blisters to form around the mouth. Oral soreness and tingling around the lips are also symptoms associated with cold sores. Treating cold sores requires that patients take anti-viral drugs and/or use idoxuridine paint (a type of topical treatment).
  • shingles: Also referred to as herpes zoster, shingles is characterized by rashes, skin sensitivity and small painful blisters anywhere on the body. Shingles are considered to be caused, in part, by stress. Bed rest, calamine lotion and the application of cold compresses defines the usual treatment options for shingles.

Resources

University of Maryland Medical Center (n.d.). Dermatology: Skin Infections. Retrieved November 1, 2007 from the UMMC Web site: http://www.umm.edu/dermatology-info/infhub.htm.