A few of the most common skin infections

Human beings host many bacterial species that can colonise the skin and cause infections. Infections are caused by micro-organisms like bacteria, viruses and viroids although larger organisms like fungi and macro-parasites can also cause infections. Predisposing factors to skin infection include pre-existing skin disease, minor traumas and poor hygiene. A few of the most common skin infections include Cellulitis, Erysipelas and Impetigo.


Cellulitis is a painful infection of the subcutaneous and dermis tissues, which is characterised by advancing borders, warmth and oedema. The skin infection mostly occurs near breaks in the skin like ulcerations, surgical wounds and trauma, but it can also occur on parts of the skin that appear normal.

Patients report a fever and have a high white blood cell count. Common areas affected include the legs, feet, hands, neck, torso, face and buttocks. Treatment involves parenteral therapy for extensive facial infection and parenteral therapy for patients with systemic symptoms or extensive disease. Oral antibiotic treatment is, however, the treatment of choice for the infection. Clean hygiene is required to expedite the healing process.


Erysipelas usually manifests as clearly visible, raised margins on skin with associated lymphatic streaking. The infection affects the face and legs. Most erysipelas cases have an inciting skin lesion or wound, which is preceded by symptoms similar to those associated with influenza. Erysipelas is common among young children, alcoholic individuals, the elderly and patients with low or compromised immune systems.

The infection is almost exclusively caused by beta-haemolytic streptococcus and treatment includes intravenous penicillin and standard oral medicinal dosage. Many physicians, however, treat Erysipelas the same way as Cellulitis because complications are similar.


Impetigo is a superficial skin infection that initially affects the face and external parts of the body that project outward with visible pustules or vesicles on redden skin. The pustules or vesicles eventually rapture and leave a characteristic yellow-brown crust on skin. The two types of Impetigo are non-bullous and bullous.

Bullous is almost exclusively caused by Staph Aureus bacteria and affects about one percent of children. Treatment involves topical treatment with mupirocin or bacitracin applied two times a day for between seven and 10 days. Systematic therapy may be necessary for patients with severe cases of infection.

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