The skin is the largest organ in the body and a good barrier against infections. Bacteria, viruses and fungi that cause skin infections are found in the environment all around us. Skin infections tend to flourish anywhere the skin is broken. There are literally hundreds of skin diseases and conditions but there are a few common infections.
Common bacterial infections
Many bacteria can infect the skin but the most common are Staphylococcus (Staph) and Streptococcus (Strep).
Staph infections are easily spread and cause pain and redness, cellulitis, crusty itchy and painful blisters and abscesses. They can spread to other parts of the body and cause dangerous and potentially deadly infections.
Strep infections cause strep throat and skin infections that can be life-threatening if spread to other parts of the body. They are easily spread by skin to skin contact with an infected person.
Impetigo is common, contagious childhood infection caused by Staph that creates scabby, yellow, crusted sores and small blisters filled with yellow fluid on the face, arms and legs. The lesions are itchy and painful. Scratching spreads the infection.
A skin abscess is a warm, painful pocket of pus (a boil) under the skin caused by a Staph infection. When the infection spreads deep into skin nearby it is called
Cellulitis causes redness, pain, and swelling. In severe cases, the bacteria can spread to the lymph nodes and cause a fever and sickness.
Folliculitis is a staph infection in the hair follicles. People with acne and those who shave have an increased risk for this infection.
Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
MRSA is a bacterial infection caused by antibiotic-resistant staph aureus, often acquired in a hospital, health care facility or a community. MRSA can live on surfaces longer than most other bacteria and viruses. It causes ulcers that spread the infection through the blood. Untreated MRSA is life-threatening, infecting tissues and organs like a heart valve, bone, a joint or lungs.
Common Viral Skin Infections
Herpes Simplex Virus causes (HSV)
The Herpes Simplex Virus has 2 subtypes—HSV 1 and HSV 2. HSV 1 causes cold sores. HSV 2 causes genital sores. Once a person is infected with HSV it will stay in their system and reoccur intermittently.
This is caused by an infection with the poxvirus that causes small, flesh-colored bumps. They are very contagious and easily spread. Most commonly it affects children, but can affect anyone who acquires the virus.
Shingles and Chicken pox
Shingles and chicken pox are both caused by a viral infection of the Varicella Zoster virus. When it is intially acquired it is chicken pox. Then the virus lives dormant for decades after getting the chickenpox, and if it is reactivated it causes shingles. Shingles is an extremely 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. There is a shingles vaccine available.
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus that produces fluid- filled blisters around the mouth and nose. They usually last about ten days.
Chickenpox is a red, itchy blistering rash all over the body. It usually affects children. The chickenpox vaccine has reduced the number of cases.
Warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus. Warts are contagious and may be painful. They can appear on the hands, feet, face, extremities, trunk, and genitals. Infection in the genital area can lead to cervical and anal cancer.
Measles is a viral infection that intially affects the respiratory tract. It then enters the blood stream and travels through the body creating a characteristic skin rash. It is typically spread through 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. The virus 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.
Fungal infections are very common skin infections which can affect many parts of the body. They most commonly present with red scaly patches. The infection is easily treated with topical creams.
Ringworm is a fungal infection that spreads easily from skin to skin contact. It is easy to diagnosed because it creates a circular shaped rash. It can affect the feet (athlete’s foot), groin (Jock itch), scalp, hands, toenails and fingernails.
Parasitic infections are caused by parasites that burrow into the skin and lay eggs. They include: Lice, bedbugs, and scabies (Mites).
Dr. Zeena is a board-certified dermatologist and an expert in skin infections. Contact her in New Orleans, Louisiana to receive the correct diagnosis and treatment.
At a Glance
Dr. Zeena Al-Dujaili
- Double board certified in dermatology and Mohs Surgery
- Fellowship trained in cosmetic dermatology
- Authored several chapters in clinical textbooks and peer-reviewed publications
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