Bacterial Skin Infections

Bacterial skin infections can occur frequently, and their severity can range from moderate (but irritating) to life-threatening. The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (staph) and Streptococcus pyogenes cause most bacterial infections (the same bacteria responsible for strep throat).

A bacterial infection can manifest itself in a variety of ways, depending on its location, type, and even the age of the person who is infected. Your internist or family physician can treat most of them.

Types of Bacterial Skin Infections


Erysipelas infects the top two layers of the skin, giving it the nickname "St. Anthony's Fire" due to the severe, burning feeling it causes. Extreme redness, swelling, and a strongly defined border between normal and diseased skin tissue are all symptoms.

Streptococcus bacteria create erysipelas, which have a similar appearance to cellulitis and occurs in the lower layers of the skin. Erysipelas can be caused by minor disorders like athlete's foot or dermatitis, or it can develop after germs spread to the nasal passages as a result of a nose or throat infection.


A carbuncle is a closely packed cluster of numerous furuncles. It can be up to 4 inches across horizontally and have one or more openings through which pus can leak onto the skin. The illness is sometimes accompanied by a temperature, as well as general weakness and weariness.

Carbuncles are most commonly found on the back, thighs, or back of the neck. The infection is usually deeper and more severe than furuncle-caused infections. Staph bacterium is the most prevalent cause of carbuncles. 7

Carbuncle infections are more likely to cause scarring, and they can take longer to develop and cure than furuncle infections. As a result, carbuncles frequently necessitate medical intervention. They're contagious, and they can spread to other sections of the body and people.


Erythrasma is a skin infection caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium minutissimum. Skin lesions with well-defined pink areas covered in fine scales and wrinkles appear first, then turn red, brown, and scaly.

Erythrasma appears in regions where skin meets skin, such as the armpits, groin, and between the toes. It's easily confused with fungal illnesses like athlete's foot and jock itch because of its location and appearance.

Most people with erythrasma are asymptomatic, however moderate itching or burning may occur, particularly if the infection is in the groin area. Erythrasma is a skin condition that occurs in hot, humid areas or because of poor hygiene, excessive perspiration, obesity, diabetes, advanced age, or a weakened immune system.

Bacterial Folliculitis

Bacterial folliculitis is a frequent infection of the hair follicles that is usually caused by a fungus, ingrown hair, or obstructions from moisturizers or other skin treatments. Shaving or plucking hairs can also make you more vulnerable. 4

Tiny red lumps or pus-filled white-headed pimples are signs of bacterial folliculitis. People with acne are more likely to get this infection than individuals who have clear skin.

While most cases of bacterial folliculitis resolve without therapy, more severe types may require antibiotics. Folliculitis, if left untreated, can result in irreversible hair loss.

Hot Tub Folliculitis

The pus-filled lumps and itchy red rash of hot tub folliculitis emerge anywhere from a few hours to several days following exposure to the bacteria.

Because it is contracted by contaminated whirlpools, hot tubs (particularly wooden ones), water slides, physiotherapy pools, or even loofah sponges, it is frequently referred to as "Pseudomonas folliculitis" or "Jacuzzi folliculitis."

Folliculitis from a hot tub usually appears on the chest or under the swimsuit, where water and bacteria have been trapped for a long time. The bacteria that cause it is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can persist in chlorinated water, making it more difficult to kill.

Because their skin is thinner and they stay in the water longer than adults, youngsters are more susceptible to hot tub folliculitis. Hot tub folliculitis is also more likely in persons who have acne or dermatitis, both of which allow bacteria to penetrate the skin.


A furuncle, often called a boil, is a painful infection that develops around a hair follicle. It starts as a red lump that may be painful and quickly enlarges, filling with pus. A furuncle can turn into an abscess if left untreated.

A furuncle is an infection of the complete pilosebaceous unit, unlike folliculitis, which also requires infection of a hair follicle. The shaft, follicle, sebaceous gland, and arrector pili muscle make up pilosebaceous units, which are found throughout the body (save for the palms, soles of the feet, and lower lip) (a bundle of small muscle fibers attached to a hair follicle).

Furuncles can be found on the face, neck, armpits, buttocks, and thighs, among other places. Warm compresses can help drain a pus-filled furuncle, but it may need to be lanced in the doctor's office in severe cases.


Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the epidermal skin's top layer. It is more common in children than adults.

Impetigo is characterized by a honey-colored crust caused by Streptococcus and Staphylococcus bacteria.

This bacterial infection causes ulcers around the nose and mouth, but it can spread to other regions of the body by skin-to-skin contact, clothing, and towels. Topical antibiotics are frequently used to treat impetigo.


Methicillin-resistant MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a dangerous bacterial infection that is resistant to antibiotics. 9 It frequently results in a minor, inflammatory sore on the skin, which can escalate to dangerous infections. MRSA can travel through the bloodstream and infect other organs, such as the lungs or urinary tract, in certain circumstances.

MRSA infection symptoms include redness, swelling, discomfort, pus, and fever, depending on which area of the body is affected. MRSA infections can resemble other bacterial skin infections, and they might even be mistaken for a spider bite.

To effectively diagnose MRSA, laboratory testing is frequently required. Systemic MRSA can easily spread from person to person if left untreated, and it can even be contracted in the hospital after surgery.

Treatment for Bacterial Skin Infections

A dermatologist or even a rheumatologist may be needed for more complicated infections. In the most severe situations, a bacterial infection can travel to the circulation and result in sepsis, which can be fatal.

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