Skin Infections

Skin Infections

Skin infections may be caused by bacteria or viruses. Common skin infections include molluscum contagiosum, impetigo and cold sores which can be readily identified and treated.

Molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a common skin disease caused by a virus. This virus is highly contagious and easily spreads from person to person. This condition is most common in children but may also affect adults, especially if they have compromised skin such as people with atopic dermatitis or eczema or a weakened immune system due to a medical condition such as AIDS or treatment for cancer.

Exposure to the molluscum virus occurly when a person comes in contact with another person who has the virus or a person contacts an item that has been exposed to the virus such as a towel or gym mat.  Molluscum appears on the skin as small dome-shaped bumps often with a central dimple or umbilication. These bumps usually appear within weeks of exposure to the virus that causes molluscum. Molluscum bumps are commonly painless though they may be associated with itching.  Molluscum can appear on other areas of the body as scratching or picking at the bumps can spread the virus.

A dermatologist can diagnose molluscum contagiosum by examining your skin. Though molluscum contagiosum may clear on its own, treatment is typically necessary as clearing may take up to 18 months. Treatment for molluscum involves destroying the bump that is infected with the molluscum virus. These treatments are performed using techniques such as cyrosurgery (freezing), curettage (scarping) and topical application of medication to destroy the bumps. Do to the contagious nature of molluscum, these procedures may have to be repeated every few weeks until the bumps have resolved.

Cold sores

A cold sore or fever blister is a small blister or group of blisters that appear on the lip or around the mouth. These blisters are caused by the herpes simplex virus. Once this virus is contracted, the virus remains in the body even after the cold sores clear. The virus can be reactivated and cause more cold sores in the future. Common factors that lead to the activation of the virus and thus cold sores include stress, not getting enough sleep, illness, sunburns and laser treatments.

Prior to the appearance of a cold sore, people may experience burning or stinging on the skin where a cold sore will appear. In some cases, people may experience burning inside the mouth, swollen lymph nodes. fever or pain.  Once a cold sore develops, the blisters can last for several weeks. If you have a cold sore,  you can spread the virus to others until the blisters have scabbed overs. A person can prevent spreading the virus by avoiding intimate contact such as kissing and avoiding sharing personal items such lipsticks or lip balms and beverages or food. It is important to avoid spreading the virus to others, especially infants and people with a weakened immune system.

A dermatologist can diagnose a cold core by examining your skin. From time to time, a swab or a viral culture may be taken to confirm the presence of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). To treat cold sores, a dermatologist may prescribe an anti-viral medication. These medications are most effective within the first 3 days of cold sore symptoms. Anti-viral medication may be applied directly to the sores or taken by mouth.

 

Impetigo

Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection. Impetigo is very common in children. Impetigo is spread through skin-to-skin contact. Impetigo is also common in athletes as the infection can spread from items that are infected with the bacteria. The two most common type of bacteria that cause impetigo are called staphylococcus (“staph”) or streptococcus (“strep”). These bacteria normally live on the skin and cause the skin no harm. When the skin is injured by a cut or a scratch, the bacteria can get into the skin and cause an infection.

Impetigo appears on the skin as slightly red erosions or sores with honey-colored crusts or scabs. It can also appear as fluid-filled blisters.

Treatment can help clear the infection and prevent the infection from spreading to others. Impetigo is highly curable with antibiotics. For mild infections, topical antibiotic are sufficient though in more severe cases an oral antibiotic is required. 

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