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Impetigo

Streptococcus - impetigo; Strep - impetigo; Staph - impetigo; Staphylococcus - impetigo

 

Impetigo is a common skin infection.

Causes

 

Impetigo is caused by streptococcus (strep) or staphylococcus (staph) bacteria. Methicillin-resistant staph aureus (MRSA) is becoming a common cause.

Skin normally has many types of bacteria on it. When there is a break in the skin, bacteria can enter the body and grow there. This causes inflammation and infection. Breaks in the skin may occur from injury or trauma to the skin or from insect, animal, or human bites.

Impetigo may also occur on skin where there is no visible break.

Impetigo is most common in children who live in unhealthy conditions.

In adults, it may occur following another skin problem. It may also develop after a cold or other virus.

Impetigo can spread to others. You can catch the infection from someone who has it if the fluid that oozes from their skin blisters touches an open area on your skin.

 

Symptoms

 

Symptoms of impetigo are:

  • One or many blisters that are filled with pus and easy to pop. In infants, the skin is reddish or raw-looking where a blister has broken.
  • Blisters that itch, are filled with yellow or honey-colored fluid, and ooze and crust over. Rash that may begin as a single spot, but spreads to other areas with scratching.
  • Skin sores on the face, lips, arms, or legs that spread to other areas.
  • Swollen lymph nodes near the infection.
  • Patches of impetigo on the body (in children).

 

Exams and Tests

 

Your health care provider will look at your skin to determine if you have impetigo.

Your provider may take a sample of bacteria from your skin to grow in the lab. This can help determine if MRSA is the cause. Specific antibiotics are needed to treat this type of bacteria.

 

Treatment

 

The goal of treatment is to get rid of the infection and relieve your symptoms.

Your provider will prescribe an antibacterial cream. You may need to take antibiotics by mouth if the infection is severe.

Gently wash (DO NOT scrub) your skin several times a day. Use an antibacterial soap to remove crusts and drainage.

 

Outlook (Prognosis)

 

The sores of impetigo heal slowly. Scars are rare. The cure rate is very high, but the problem often comes back in young children.

 

Possible Complications

 

Impetigo may lead to:

  • Spread of the infection to other parts of the body (common)
  • Kidney inflammation or failure (rare)
  • Permanent skin damage and scarring (very rare)

 

When to Contact a Medical Professional

 

Call your provider if you have symptoms of impetigo.

 

Prevention

 

Prevent the spread of infection.

  • If you have impetigo, always use a clean washcloth and towel each time you wash.
  • DO NOT share towels, clothing, razors, and other personal care products with anyone.
  • Avoid touching blisters that are oozing.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after touching infected skin.

Keep your skin clean to prevent getting the infection. Wash minor cuts and scrapes well with soap and clean water. You can use a mild antibacterial soap.

 

 

References

Habif TP. Bacterial infections. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 9.

Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF. Cutaneous bacterial infections. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 665.

Pasternack MS, Swartz MN. Cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis, and subcutaneous tissue infections. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 95.

 
  • Impetigo, bullous on the buttocks

    Impetigo, bullous on the buttocks - illustration

    Impetigo is a superficial skin infection caused by either streptococci or staphylococci. Here it is on the buttocks, but it is seen more frequently in children on the face, upper chest, and arms. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

    Impetigo, bullous on the buttocks

    illustration

  • Impetigo on a child's face

    Impetigo on a child's face - illustration

    Impetigo is a highly contagious disease caused by streptococcus or staphylococcus bacteria. It causes a superficial skin infection which appears red with yellow or golden crusts. It is seen frequently in children on the face, upper trunk, and arms. Note that the nose is also infected.

    Impetigo on a child's face

    illustration

    • Impetigo, bullous on the buttocks

      Impetigo, bullous on the buttocks - illustration

      Impetigo is a superficial skin infection caused by either streptococci or staphylococci. Here it is on the buttocks, but it is seen more frequently in children on the face, upper chest, and arms. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

      Impetigo, bullous on the buttocks

      illustration

    • Impetigo on a child's face

      Impetigo on a child's face - illustration

      Impetigo is a highly contagious disease caused by streptococcus or staphylococcus bacteria. It causes a superficial skin infection which appears red with yellow or golden crusts. It is seen frequently in children on the face, upper trunk, and arms. Note that the nose is also infected.

      Impetigo on a child's face

      illustration

    Self Care

     

      Tests for Impetigo

       

         

        Review Date: 10/24/2016

        Reviewed By: David L. Swanson, MD, Vice Chair of Medical Dermatology, Associate Professor of Dermatology, Mayo Medical School, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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