What Is a Skin Infection?

Skin infections are very common occurrences throughout life.   Some infections are self-limiting and resolve on their own, but many others require medical attention.

There are many types and causes of skin infections that are grouped in the following categories:

  • Bacterial skin infections – These include leprosy, carbuncles, staph infection, cellulitis, impetigo, boils, pilonidal cyst and abscess.
  • Fungal skin infections – These are quite common and include ringworm, athlete’s foot, candidiasis (yeast infection), sporotrichosis, and fungal nail infections.
  • Viral skin infections – These include shingles, chickenpox, molluscum contagiosum, folliculitis, carbuncles, and furuncles.

Staph infections are caused by staphylococcus bacteria, types of germs commonly found on the skin or in the nose of even healthy individuals. Staph infections, though usually just a relatively minor skin infection, are a great cause for concern for they can turn deadly if the bacteria invade deeper into your body, entering your bloodstream, joints, bones, lungs or heart.

Bacteremia, also known as blood poisoning, occurs when staph bacteria enter a person’s bloodstream. A fever and low blood pressure are signs of bacteremia. The bacteria can travel to locations deep within your body, to produce infections affecting internal organs, such as your brain, heart or lungs, bones and muscles.

Toxic shock syndrome, also a life-threatening condition results from toxins produced by some strains of staph bacteria and has been linked to the use of certain types of tampons, skin wounds and surgery. It usually develops suddenly with a high fever, nausea and vomiting, a rash on your palms and soles that resembles sunburn, confusion, muscle aches, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Septic arthritis is often caused by a staph infection. The bacteria often target the knees, but other joints can be affected, including your ankle, hip, wrist, elbow, shoulder or spine. Signs and symptoms may include joint swelling, severe pain in the affected joint, and fever.

Treatment

Treatment usually involves antibiotics and drainage of the infected area. However, some staph infections no longer respond to common antibiotics.

Go to the doctor if you or your child has:

  • An area of red, irritated or painful skin
  • Pus-filled blisters
  • Fever
  • Skin infections are being passed from one family member to another

Two or more family members have skin infections at the same time