The skin is the largest organ in the body colonized by a diverse group of bacteria, viruses and fungi. Most organisms are harmless and have a beneficial effect on the look and feel of our skin.
The skin is a barrier against infections preventing the growth of disese causing organisms and environmental allergens and toxins.
Skin infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. They can be mild or serious. Serious infections create pus – filled blisters, broken skin and painful skin discolorations.
Common bacterial skin infections
Cellulitis is common infection of the deep layers of the skin. The infection spreads from the surface of the skin to the deeper layers causing redness, pain, swelling and heat, and can permanently damage the skin.
Impetigo affects children aged 2-5. A break in the skin allows bacteria to enter and form sores or pustules that ooze yellow pus. The break may be caused by a wound, herpes or staphylococcus. It is highly contagious. Impetigo affects the nose and mouth.
Folliculitis is inflammation of the hair follicles due to an infection with staphylococcus or a fungus. It is common in people with acne and shaving increases the risk of folliculitis. Often it resolves without treatment, but severe infection can cause permanent hair loss. It can affect any part of the body that has hair including the head, neck, trunk, buttocks, arms and legs.
Boils and Abscesses
A boil is an infection of the hair follicle, the hair shaft, the follicle muscle and the sebaceous gland. It is commonly found on the face, chest, neck and if left untreated can develop into an abscess. Abscesses are pockets of infection caused by severe infections.
Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
MRSA is a bacterial infection from an antibiotic-resistant staph aureus. It causes ulcers that spread the infection through the blood and if untreated can be life-threatening infecting tissues and organs like a heart valve, bone, a joint or lungs. MRSA lesions look like a spider bite – red, warm, swollen and tender. It is easily spread from person to person. People with compromised immune systems and those with diabetes are at risk for MRSA whether acquired in the community or a hospital.
Common viral skin infections
Chickenpox is a red, itchy blistering rash all over the body due to the varicella virus. It usually affects children. The chickenpox vaccine has reduced the number of cases.
Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
Shingles is an infection with the varicella – zoster virus that also causes chickenpox.
After an infection with the virus, it lives in the nervous system for decades before reactivating as shingles. It causes a painful red rash that also itches and causes blisters on the torso, neck and face. One out of three people in the US will develop shingles at some time in their lives.
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. They usually last about ten days and produce fluid-filled blisters around the mouth and nose.
Warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Warts are contagious and may be painful. They can appear on the hands or where the skin is shaved. HPV can infect the genitals and may lead to cervical cancer.
Measles are a viral infection that affects the respiratory tract first and then enters the blood and travels through the body and creates a characteristic skin rash. It is spread through droplets of water that are released into the air by a sneeze or cough. The virus can live outside the body for up to two hours.
Hand foot and mouth disease
This is a highly contagious infection caused the Coxsackie virus, and is easily spread through direct contact with unwashed hands and surfaces with contaminated feces, or saliva. It creates blisters or sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet, and typically affects children under age 5.
Ringworm is a fungal infection that spreads easily from skin to skin contact. It is easy to diagnose because it creates a circular shaped rash. Ringworm can affect the feet (athlete’s foot), groin (Jock itch), scalp, hands, toe nails and fingernails. If not properly treated it can lead to bacterial infections and dermatitis.
Some parasitic infections that affect the skin are Lice, bedbugs, and scabies (Mites).
When you suffer with a rash and need the help of an expert, contact board-certified dermatologist Dr. Kandula in Parsippany, New Jersey to receive the correct diagnosis and treatment.