Infections of the Skin

Infections of the skin

Skin infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection caused by staphylococcus aureus. It is common among children and babies, beginning as a red patch, which develops into small pustules that join together, eventually forming crusty yellow blisters (bullae). Impetigo is especially contagious, spreading rapidly on contact and by shared towels and face cloths. Treatment is with antibiotics.

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin and its underlying tissues. The infected area becomes red, hot and tender. Treatment is with antibiotic drugs.

Molluscum contagiosum- is a viral infection of the skin caused by the poxvirus Molluscum contagiosum. This virus is harmless and commonly occurs in children. It causes a pearly nodule that excretes a cheesy fluid. Often no treatment is needed and the nodule will disappear on its own in a few months. However, in severe cases the nodule may be removed with wart treatments or by freezing with liquid nitrogen.

Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), of which there are over 30 types. When viral warts appear on soles they are known as as plantar warts or verrucas. Viral warts are harmless but contagious growths of the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis). Some warts spontaneously disappear within a year. Others can be removed with chemicals or by freezing (cryotherapy) or burning (cautery).

Fungal nail infections also known as onychomycosis, or tinea unguium, can be caused by various fungi which discolour and misshape the nail.

Pityriasis vesicolor is caused by the yeast Malassezia furfur, which is normally found on the skin without causing any problems. However, in warm humid environments it may proliferate and cause an infection. It most commonly affects the back, upper arms, chest and neck, causing light patches and occasionally scaly skin and itching. Treatment is with antifungal cream.

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