Understanding Bacterial Skin Infections: Folliculitis

Among bacterial skin infections, folliculitis is the condition that affects the hair follicles. The infection may occur virtually anywhere on the body, but is more common in areas that are shaved or covered by clothes that are tight and not exposed to air. The folliculitis can also be caused by fungi, viruses or other non infectious agents.

Bacterial Folliculitis

Most often, folliculitis is caused by bacteria that clogs the hair follicles. This happens in a number of cases including:

  • After shaving or hair removal procedures, when the skin is not disinfected or cleaned
  • The friction of clothes on the hair follicles (i.e. in the pubic area), especially when the clothes are tight
  • Insect bites
  • Hot tubs, which may have the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterium, if not properly cleaned
  • Wearing wet or sweaty clothing (i.e. bathing suits or leggings)
  • Drug therapy, especially antibiotics or certain types of acne treatment

The most common bacteria causing folliculitis is the staphylococcus, which may be of several types. People with iron deficiency or anemia are more exposed to developing chronic bacterial folliculitis.

Other Causes of Folliculitis

Folliculitis may also be caused by:

  • Fungi such as yeast cells
  • Viruses (i.e. herpes simplex)
  • Scarring
  • Excessive oil production on skin, clogging the pores, more common on thighs and forearms

Symptoms of Foliculitis

The folliculitis will cause the inflammation of the skin and there may be bumps on the surface of the skin, located around a hair follicle. The skin can be itchy and red. Most cases of folliculitis are in the facial and pubic area, or areas where air has no access and are always covered by clothing. The condition may often spread, so the patient may experience several bacterial infections on the body.

Diagnosing Folliculitis

The dermatologist will take a look at the skin and see if the infection affects the hair follicles. A skin sample from an infected area will be needed to determine if the infection is bacterial. The results may also show that the folliculitis is caused by fungi or bacteria or other non infectious agents.

Treatment Options

The bacterial infection will be treated with an antibiotic cream that should be applied on the affected areas. If the infection has spread and affects numerous areas of the body, oral antibiotics will be recommended. Penicillins have been proven effective to eliminate the bacterial infections affecting the hair follicles.

If the infection is fungal, antibiotics shouldn’t be prescribed, as these can worsen the problem. Oral antifungal medication along with topical antifungal ointments will be prescribed. Folliculitis can easily turn into a chronic condition, so it needs to be controlled.

To prevent the occurrence of folliculitis, loose clothing must be worn. An antiseptic powder or solution can be used on a daily basis, especially in areas that are more likely to be affected by folliculitis.