Infections of the skin and associated tissues may be caused by bacteria, fungus, viruses, or yeast. They generally begin in an area where there is a change or break in the normal skin environment.
Bacterial infections of the skin can vary in their presenting signs, symtoms and severity. Impetigo, caused by an overgrowth of the streptococcal species of bateria, is found on the surface of the skin. When a skin infection goes deeper than the surface, it may be known as cellulitis. Cellulitis can cause redness, pain, swelling, warmth, and fever or chills. Antibiotics are used to treat both impetigo and cellulitis. Depending on the extent of skin involvement, topical, oral, and sometimes, intravenous antibiotics may be prescribed.
Fungal and yeast infections are caused by microscopic organisms that live on the hair, nails, mouth, and outer skin layers. Organism overgrowth usually takes place in warm, moist, skin folds or where there may be a break in the skin. These infections are treatable but may also recur in predisposed individuals. Treatments include topical and oral antifungal agents.
Viral infections of the skin are very varied. They may be self-limited such as the common childhood eruption, molluscum contagiosum. These lesions tend to stay in localized clusters and often disappear without treatment. Herpes viruses can cause troubling recurrent groups of painful, sore, or itchy blisters around the mouth or genital area.
Chicken pox (varicella) and shingles (herpes zoster) are also part of the group of viral infections. They may be treated with an oral anti-viral agent. A generalized rash throughout the body called a viral exanthem may be one of the signs of certain viral infections such as Fifth’s Disease or Pityriasis Rosea. A Board-certified dermatologist may be helpful in diagnosing these infections.