The skin is an excellent barrier that helps protect you from harmful external threats, such as bacteria. However, if the skin is damaged during injury, surgery, or a skin condition like eczema, bacteria may breach the skin, begin to grow and cause a skin infection. Skin infections cause redness, swelling, pain, and often skin breakdown.
Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection caused by staph or strep-type bacteria that most often affects school children. It presents as honey-colored crusts on the face or on skin affected by eczema. Other skin infections, such as erysipelas and cellulitis are more common in adults. These infections often occur in deeper layers of the skin and cause patches of redness and swelling. Other bacterial infections can cause skin abscesses that grow into hot, red, painful lumps. Certain skin infections can become dangerous if bacteria moves from the skin into the bloodstream. This results in fever, chills, and low blood pressure and is considered a medical emergency. If you develop any such symptoms, it is important to seek medical care immediately.
Diagnosing a skin infection requires a combination of examining the skin and performing a skin culture. A skin culture can identify which bacteria is growing and tell your dermatologist which antibiotics are most effective at killing the bacteria. All treatments aim to target and eliminate the responsible bacteria. These can include using topical antibiotics or vinegar water, taking oral antibiotics, or surgically draining an abscess.