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Bacterial Skin Infections

All About Bacterial Skin Infections


Updated May 16, 2014

Bacterial skin infections are very common, and they can range from merely annoying to deadly. Most bacterial infections of the skin are caused by two bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus and a form of Streptococcus.

Do you have a rash that you think might be caused by a bacteria? Here you'll find a list of the most common bacterial skin infections that may be to blame.


Photo © Colm Anderson
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the deeper layers of the skin, the dermis and the subcutaneous tissue. This is a very common skin infection. Most cases of cellulitis are easy to treat if treated early. The longer you wait to get treatment, the more damage the bacteria can do to the skin.


Photo © CDC/Dr. Thomas F. Sellers/Emory University
Erysipelas is a bacterial infection that occurs in the top layers of the skin. It's also called St. Anthony's Fire because it burns and is very painful. In erysipelas, the skin is usually very red and swollen and there is a well-defined border between normal and infected skin.


photo © iStockphoto.com/creacart
Folliculitis is another very common bacterial skin infection. Folliculitis is an infection in the hair follicle, which is a pretty small structure. It makes sense that this infection looks like a group of small little red bumps that can be filled with a small amount of pus. Folliculitis usually heals without scarring.

Hot Tub Folliculitis

Photo © A.D.A.M.
Hot tub folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles caused by the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This bacteria is commonly found in contaminated whirlpools, hot tubs, water slides, physiotherapy pools, or even loofah sponges. Children tend to get hot tub folliculitis more often (probably because they stay in the water longer).


photo © iStockphoto.com/Loredo Rucchin
Whereas folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicle, a furuncle is an infection of the whole pilosebaceous unit. If not treated in the early stages, a furuncle can become an abscess and might have to be drained.


Photo © Gregory Moran, MD
A carbuncle is a collection of multiple infected hair follicles. It's an abscess, just like a furuncle, but a carbuncle is a much more serious infection. Whereas a furuncle is an infection of a hair follicle and the surrounding tissue, a carbuncle is actually several furuncles that are densely packed together.


Photo © Heather L. Brannon, MD
Impetigo is a bacterial infection of the top layer of the skin, the epidermis. The hallmark of impetigo is a honey-colored crust. If you have impetigo, your doctor will probably prescribe a topical antibiotic instead of an antibiotic you take by mouth.


Photo © 2009 Caliendo - Custom Medical Stock Photo
Erythrasma is a bacterial skin infection that occurs in areas where skin touches skin, like between toes, in armpits, or groin. Because of its location and color, erythrasma is often confused with fungal infections like jock itch. If you have what you think is a fungal infection that isn't getting better with an anti-fungal treatment, you may have erythrasma. You should see your doctor because erythrasma is easily treated with the proper antibiotics.

Hidradenitis Suppurativa

Photo © 2009 NMSB - Custom Medical Stock Photo
Hidradenitis suppurativa is a bacterial infection of certain sweat glands that are found in the armpits, groin, buttocks, scalp, and under the female breast. People don't get hidradenitis until after puberty, and there is a form of this disease that runs in families.
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