Common Skin Infections

Fungal skin infections

Tinea
Otherwise known as “ringworm”, tinea is a very common fungal skin infection. It tends to occur on the soles of the feet (otherwise known as “athlete’s foot”), groins and buttocks. It can also occur on the scalp, face and body too. Tinea usually appears as red or brown scaly patches on the skin. The rash may appear “ring” like, and can sometimes itch. Such infections can be treated with topical and/or oral antifungal medications.

Pityriasis versicolour
This is a skin infection caused by overgrowth of a resident yeast organism on our skin: malassaezia furfur. It is a common problem in hot, humid climates like Singapore. It usually appears as multiple itchy, flaky spots, on the back and chest. The colour of the spots vary from pink to brown to white. After the acute infection resolves, it often leaves white spots on the body. Pityriasis versicolour can easily be treated with topical antifungal preparations. For severe cases, oral antifungal medications are sometimes required.

Viral skin infections

Viral warts

Viral warts are caused by the human papilloma virus. They most commonly appear as little bumps or growths on the feet or hands. They can be mistaken for corns. Viral warts can also occur on other sites of the body. If left untreated, they can spread. Viral warts can be treated with a variety of methods such as: topical medications, cryotherapy( liquid nitrogen), electrosurgery or lasers.

Molluscum
Molluscum is a common infection in children. It is caused by the pox virus. They appear as tiny, translucent round bumps on the skin, sometimes with a little depression in the middle. It left untreated, molluscum can spread. It can be treated with a variety of methods such as: topical medications, cryotherapy(liquid nitrogen), or electrosurgery.

Herpes
The herpes simplex virus is the cause of herpes infections. They most commonly cause oral herpes( otherwise known as ‘cold sores”) and genital herpes ( herpes affecting the private parts). Herpes usually appears as small clusters of painful blisters or ulcers on the skin. Transmission of this infection is via direct skin contact. Once the infection is acquired, the body is unable to eradicate the virus. Hence, the virus can “reactivate” periodically, causing recurrent attacks of blisters and ulcers. During an acute attack of herpes, oral antiviral medications are very useful in reducing the duration of the illness and the severity of symptoms. For individuals who suffer from very frequent episodes of herpes reactivation, regular daily intake of antiviral medication can be effective in preventing the attacks.

Shingles
Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus in our body. This is the same virus that causes chicken pox. Shingles appear as blisters over a “band-like” distribution on the skin. It is usually quite painful. After recovery from shingles, there may be persistent pain over the same area. Antiviral medications are useful in reducing the severity of the attack of shingles. Pain medications are often necessary to alleviate the pain.

Bacterial skin infections

Impetigo
Impetigo is a common skin infection in children. It appears as weepy, crusted red plaques on the skin. It can be quite infectious and children in close contact can transmit the infection. Impetigo can be treated with oral and topical antibiotics.

Folliculitis
As its names suggests, this is an infection of the hair follicles. They usually appear as small, pimple-like bumps on the legs or buttocks. Women who shave or wax their legs regularly are more prone to developing folliculitis on the legs. Men who have thick beards and shave regularly are also more prone to developing folliculitis over the face and beard region. Folliculitis can be treated with oral and topical antibiotics.

Cellulitis
This is a common infection affecting the upper layers of the skin. It most commonly affects the legs. They appear as painful, red patches, sometimes with watery discharge and blisters. Oral or intravenous antibiotics are required to treat this infection.