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Treating Bacterial Infections (Skin Infections)
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Treating Bacterial Infections

Mark H. Lupin, BSc, MD, FRCPC

Our bodies are surrounded by bacteria, most of which are beneficial and necessary for our functions. A host of species of bacteria exist on the skin tissues, exposed to the outside environment. When the immune system is compromised or when the bacteria break inside the skin, infections can occur. These skin infections can occur on the surface of the skin, or penetrate deeper into the skin tissue. Common examples of bacteria that infect the skin include Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. For more information about bacterial infections, visit www.skincareguide.ca/conditions/bacterial_infections.

Bacterial Infections that affect the skin:

Abcess:

An abcess forms when the infection penetrates deep in the skin. Its appearance is distinct, forming an open hole with pus inside, or will look like a closed blister. As infection progresses the abcess becomes sore and increasingly painful.

Erysipelas:

Erysipelas is an infection that is common among young children and the elderly. It commonly favours those who have alcohol addiction, those with diabetes or mellitus, those with chronic swelling of the limbs, and those who have otherwise experienced physical trauma. Erysipelas is usually found on the face or the legs. Symptoms include sudden fever, a reddening and heating of the cheeks, and swelling and tenseness in the infected area. A deeper and more serious form of this infection is called Cellulitis.

Folliculitis:

As the name suggests, folliculitis is the infection of the hair follicles. It is common on the arms, trunk, buttocks, and face. It looks like a pimple, creating bumps in the skin, and form small blisters with pus inside them. As the infection goes deeper into the skin they form boils.

Impetigo:

Redness of the skin, blisters with fluids inside them, constant itching, and honey coloured crusting skin are all symptoms of impetigo. Lesions are often found on the nose and face. Ecthyma occurs when it infects a deeper layer of the skin, and is often found on the legs, causing boiling, crusting, and deep sores that leave scars. These infections are common in those that are involved in contact sports. 

Treating Bacterial Infections:

Treatments vary largely depending on the severity of the infection. For milder infections, a physician may simply cut into the skin and drain out the infection or abcess and have you apply compresses. For these creams such as Bactroban® or Fucidin® may be prescribed, and are effective against all of the infections named above.

For more extensive infections, various antibiotics are prescribed depending on the type of infection. Penicillin is common to treat strep infections. Antibiotic resistance is becoming a serious problem in recent years to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, and should best be avoided when possible. Early and proper treatment should will minimize the need for antibiotics, and also lower the risk of transmission to others. 

When undergoing treatment for bacteria, regular hand washing is extremely important, and will reduce the chance of spreading the infection. Antibacterial products such as Hibitane®, Tersaseptic®, and Trisan® can kill bacteria as well as products like Safe4Hours®. They can last for up to four hours, and form a part of your treatment. If you suspect a bacterial infection, it’s important to see your doctor before it becomes severe. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, it is very important that the medicines be completed even after the infection appears to have healed, as bacterial resistance is a serious problem if they are not eliminated entirely from the body.

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Related:

abcess,   erysipelas,   folliculitis,   impetigo,   skin infections,   treatments,