All You Need to Know About Skin Infection
A skin infection refers to damage to the skin caused by the body’s defense reactions to certain pathogens. Bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites are possible triggers here. There are a variety of different dangerous skin infections.
What is a skin infection?
According to abbreviationfinder, skin infections refer to infections of the skin and associated areas of the body, including infections of the sebaceous glands, hair follicles, and so on. Accordingly, skin infections are not only limited to the dermatological picture, but can go far beyond that. In a broader sense, nail bed infections and, for example, athlete’s foot and nail fungus are also included.
A skin infection is always caused by a pathogen, with bacteria being the most common trigger. In addition, a distinction must also be made as to whether it is a disease that only affects the skin or whether the skin infection is a symptom of another disease. For example, systemic diseases are also often associated with skin infections.
The types of infections can be very different. They range from slight skin irritations to severe necrosis with pus formation. Local skin infections are not uncommon. Acne and the occasional breakout, for example, affect almost everyone. Diaper rash affects almost every baby at some point in their life.
Skin infections basically know four different types of pathogens: bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites. The majority of all infections can be traced back to the fact that pathogens get into the skin through the smallest injury. For example, streptococci or staphylococci can nest and lead to an infection. Individual sweat or sebaceous glands as well as hair follicles can also be affected, which then also leads to a (local) infection.
In this context boils are also mentioned. If there is also no internal pus formation, abscesses form, which are also associated with skin infections. Acne is often promoted by other types of bacteria – mostly Propioni bacteria.
In principle, most bacteria can lead to purulent infections in the event of a skin injury, since the bacteria cause inflammation and immune reactions through their metabolic products. These infections can remain superficial or penetrate deeper into the tissue. Above all, inflammation of skin glands, purulent infections, acne and erysipelas are triggered by bacteria. But cellulite (not to be confused with cellulite !) and larger wound infections are also caused by bacteria.
Viral pathogens are among other things the cause of chickenpox, warts, measles, shingles, genital warts and herpes. It is not uncommon for the viral pathogens to get into humans through body fluids. Among the fungi there are numerous species that are native to the human skin flora anyway. Usually, they only become a fungal infection if the immune system of the affected person is (permanently) damaged or the skin flora has changed significantly.
Then various yeast fungi and other skin fungi can lead to fungal lichen. But fungi can also settle in the body, for example in the case of oral thrush. The most prominent example, however, is athlete’s foot (which can also affect the hands, scrotum, and other areas). Filamentous fungi are responsible here. Furthermore, fungi can also be found in or under the nail.
Last but not least, parasites are the rarest cause of skin infections. Lice, bed bugs and the itch mite are the most common pathogens here. In the case of lice and bed bugs, the infection (or inflammatory response) is secondary. In the case of scabies, the infection occurs due to the parasite in the skin.
Sometimes skin infections arise from opportunistic infections: the weakened skin (due to dryness, illness, or injury, for example) then becomes the local focus of infection more by chance. It should also be noted that people have different thicknesses of skin and that the skin flora in some people almost favors certain infections.
Skin infections must also be distinguished from infections that are most likely to occur due to skin trauma. Examples are tetanus and rabies.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Skin infections are always shown by a change in the appearance of the skin. Redness usually occurs. Itching and uncomfortable sensations in the affected areas are also common.
Otherwise, the symptoms are very different. Bacterial infections sometimes lead to the formation of pus, abscesses, extensive destruction of the skin and so on. The skin can also be completely destroyed as a result of local necrosis.
Viral infections, on the other hand, are never associated with the formation of pus or abscesses and are often easier to identify. Especially the viral skin infections that lead to the so-called children’s diseases have a clear symptom picture. These include, for example, chickenpox and measles.
Fungal infections are very different. Superficial skin infections are usually associated with the formation of spots. These can be of different sizes and more or less raised. Sometimes the pigments of the skin are destroyed, which can lead to discoloration. Fungal skin infections are not always associated with itching.
In most cases they are completely symptom-free (with the exception of the aesthetic change). Foot and nail infections, on the other hand, are often associated with itching and often result in a very penetrating odor development. The parasite infestation on the skin always leads to itching. In the case of scabies, it can be particularly distressing.
A few examples of classic symptoms of well-known skin diseases should be listed here. For example, acne always means the formation of pus in the sebaceous glands (usually on the face or upper trunk), which can be associated with pain. Large abscesses (e.g. after severe wounds) can lead to immense pain and necrosis.
Cellulitis is accompanied by severe reddening of the skin, but can otherwise be asymptomatic. Hand, foot, and mouth disease can cause blisters in the mouth, irritation of the skin on the hands and feet, and loss of appetite. Young children in particular are affected by the viral infection.
Scabies shows up through bore tunnels in particularly warm and well-perfused areas. Sometimes it can be seen as a small dot under the skin. The itching gets worse, especially at night.
Overall, complications from skin infection are rare. Most skin infections can be considered harmless if treated adequately, although the treatment can often take a long time.
Complications are to be feared at most in severely immunosuppressed patients and in the case of extensive infections with the formation of pus and abscesses. For example, a poor immune system can always lead to a worsening of an actually harmless clinical picture. Bacteria and other pathogens can then multiply faster and cause more damage even faster. In the case of bacteria, potentially fatal sepsis can occur under the most unfavorable circumstances. This can also be caused by particularly large abscesses.
If a part of the body is too deeply penetrated by an infection, which may have originated in the skin, amputation is also necessary in rare cases.
In most cases, the complications of skin infection depend on whether the infection is local or spread. For example, a single boil or pimple is unlikely to lead to complications, while fungal infections can.
A frequent consequence of skin infection is that the affected skin areas are attacked and secondary infections occur. If no action is taken, there is a risk of losing the intact skin. Overall, however, complications are rare. It should be noted that particularly susceptible skin types are not well protected against certain skin diseases (especially fungal infections) and the people affected suffer from them again and again.
Further complications depend on the exact disease.
When should you go to the doctor?
Skin changes (with the exception of a single pimple or a faint reddening) are always a reason to see a doctor. This is not only the case because the skin changes can represent skin infections. Rather, there are also various skin changes that indicate other diseases.
For example, a Lyme disease infection causes typical circles on the skin. But other diseases from the idiopathic group of dermatological diseases can also occur and require clarification. A typical example here is neurodermatitis.
Occasional rashes can occur due to allergen exposure. Here, too, it is worth repeating and clarifying. In addition, some skin rashes are associated with infectious diseases. For example with HIV, syphilis and the flu.
A family doctor can be the first point of contact. Above all, he will recognize clear clinical pictures well. If the findings are not clear, a dermatologist can help.
Warning signs that indicate a visit to the doctor are, for example, hardened skin areas, strong swellings, changes in sensation and circulatory disorders.
The diagnosis is usually made by looking at the skin and, if necessary, by taking tissue samples and swabs. In most cases, however, the visual diagnosis is sufficient to determine at least the type of pathogen. An anamnesis is usually obtained when the skin changes are infectious but cannot really be assigned.
If there are abscesses and similarly serious damage, imaging methods may have to be used. In rare cases it is necessary to know the exact type of pathogen (e.g. when the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics is advised against). Then laboratory diagnostic tests are used. Parasites can usually be recognized quickly.
Treatment & Therapy
Treatment is cause-oriented, with the exception of viral pathogens. This is how bacteria are treated with antibiotics. There are fungicidal agents against fungi that are either applied externally or used in tablets. Parasites can also usually be combated with creams and ointments.
In some cases it is necessary to intervene directly in the skin. Thus, the treatment also consists in establishing adequate hygiene of the affected area. Abscesses are usually punctured. Severe necroses usually have to be surgically removed. Amputations can be considered in the case of extensive tissue loss with a risk of sepsis.
Treatment in the case of a skin infection can take a long time, for example in the case of inflammatory acts or severe cases of fungal infestation. The therapy usually consists of a combination of medication and certain actions that are intended to protect the skin. This can mean using certain detergents, avoiding certain substances and much more and must be determined individually.
In some cases (especially in the case of fungal infestation), hair removal can also be useful in order to be able to better combat any reserves of the pathogen. This is also useful for head lice and pubic lice. Viral pathogens, on the other hand, are treated symptomatically.
Outlook & Forecast
Skin infections have a good prognosis in most cases. The pathogens can be easily identified in a medical treatment through targeted tests and then treated. Therefore, within a few weeks, a large number of patients experience relief from their symptoms and then freedom from symptoms.
Basically, the sooner treatment is possible, the better the chances of recovery. With some pathogens, there is an improvement in the skin changes even without drug treatment. A good cleansing of the body and a change of clothes can already help to alleviate the symptoms.
However, depending on the cause of the skin infection, without treatment, health can deteriorate. The germs, viruses, fungi or bacteria can multiply and spread on the skin within a short time. In addition, the risk of pathogens entering the organism through open wounds increases. In severe cases, the patient is threatened with blood poisoning and thus a fatal course of the disease.
It is therefore important for a good prognosis to determine the cause of the present skin infection. Based on the test results, a decision can then be made about the need for medical treatment. For some infections, therapies based on natural remedies are entirely sufficient to achieve recovery.
Preventing skin infections is difficult. It applies in the case of infections arising via wounds that wounds and scratches that appear should be cleaned quickly. This should be done with sterilizing agents if possible. Covering the injured area is advisable.
Furthermore, the skin flora and skin health can be supported. Dryness on the skin should be avoided. Sufficient liquid and care creams can help here. In addition, the intake of vitamins A and E has a positive effect on the skin’s ability to regenerate.
Particular attention is also paid to washing the skin. There is a lot of discussion here about how much soap and other agents a skin flora can tolerate. This seems to be different for everyone. For example, people with very sensitive and often damaged skin can try to use less soap when showering. Among other things, this maintains the natural acid protection of the skin and can support the natural skin flora (which competes with invading pathogens).
In the case of a skin infection, the possibilities and measures of aftercare in most cases depend very much on the exact infection, so that no general prediction can be made here. Usually, skin infections can be treated relatively well, but early diagnosis is always necessary to prevent further complications or problems. The sooner a doctor is consulted for this disease, the better the further course is in most cases.
Most infections on the skin are treated by applying creams or ointments. The person concerned should pay attention to regular application and also to the correct dosage of the funds. If antibiotics or other medications are prescribed, these must also be taken and dosed regularly.
When taking antibiotics, it should also be noted that they should not be taken together with alcohol, otherwise their effect will be significantly weakened. In serious cases, talking to friends or your own family is also very advisable to prevent mental upsets or depression. In this context, contact with other affected persons can also be useful. In most cases, a skin infection does not reduce the life expectancy of the person affected.
You can do that yourself
For skin infections that are temporary and show no symptoms, it’s best to keep the affected areas clean. In addition, they should not be touched unnecessarily in order to accelerate healing.
In the event of pus formation, warm, moist compresses can cause the pus to break out more quickly, which leads to faster relief. In principle, people affected by skin infections can take all measures to promote skin health and the immune system. This applies above all to a diet rich in vitamins and minerals.
In addition, individual inflammations of the skin (pimples, inflamed glands, etc.) can be treated with drying and antiseptic agents. Examples are zinc ointments and turpentine oil. However, with remedies like these, their use should be discussed with a doctor.
Fungal infections can be temporarily combated with vinegar. However, this does not eliminate the spore reserves that have already been created. Large-area skin changes, such as those that occur in the case of a large abscess or severe fungal infestation, cannot be treated by yourself. A full visit to the doctor is inevitable here.