Skin infections including can be broadly categorized into four groups:
- bacterial (eg, cellulitis, impetigo, boils, leprosy)
- viral (eg, chicken pox, warts, measles)
- fungal (eg, ringworm, athlete’s foot, thrush, rash) and
- parasitic (eg, lice, bed bugs, scabies)
Common symptoms of a skin infection include redness of the skin, a rash, pain itching, and tenderness.
When to see a doctor
Our dermatologists are trained to treat all types of skin disease, so if your condition is not improving, it is worth making an appointment whether it is just unsightly or uncomfortable, or if it is showing signs of being dangerous. Skin infections can spread to the bloodstream and become life-threatening.
If you have a severe infection though, you should visit our doctor as soon as possible. Signs that your infection is severe include blisters, pus, skin breaking down, discoloring or causing pain.
Diagnosis and treatment
Our highly experienced dermatologists can usually identify your infection through a physical examination, but sometimes may take a sample of cells to confirm it. Treatment will depend on the type of your infection:
- Bacterial skin infections occur when bacteria enter your body through broken skin such as a cut or a scratch. It will often start with small, red bumps that slowly increase in size. Mild bacterial infections can be treated easily with topical antibiotics, but stronger infections may require an oral antibiotic or, if the strain of bacteria is resistant to treatment, intravenous antibiotics.
- The most common causes of viral skin infections are poxvirus, human papillomavirus (HPV) and the herpes virus, and the infection can range from mild to severe. Treatment can range from topical and prescribed ointments, to techniques such as cryotherapy (freezing).
- Fungal infections usually develop in damp areas of the body, such as the feet or armpit. Lifestyle and your individual body chemistry can increase your risk. Not all fungal infections are contagious, and they are generally not life-threatening.
- Parasitic infections are caused by a parasite burrowing under your skin and laying eggs. Generally, a parasitic infection is more uncomfortable than dangerous, but care should be exercised as the infection can spread to the bloodstream and organs.