What is a skin infection?

Skin, being the largest organ of our body needs a special care from our side. Its main function is to safeguard our body from infections. A skin infection is said to emerge when bacteria, parasites, fungi, or germs penetrate deep inside the skin and spread and leads to redness, pain, swelling, inflammations, skin color changes and other types of discomforts. These radicals enter the skin through the passage of wounds and cause the skin infections. So it is necessary to take care while healing of wounds. A skin infection may range from mere mild to serious ones. Mild infections may be curable with certain prescribed medications or using the home remedies but serious skin infections necessitates the immediate medical help.

Skin infections and rashes are distinct terms but used by the people interchangeably. A rash occurs when the area of skin is swollen or irritated. Also the occurrence of certain rashes may signal the emergence of skin infections but it is not necessary that a person with a rash will always have a skin infection.

Types of skin infections

The following are the four types of skin infections that one can experience in its lifetime:

1. Bacterial skin infections

Bacteria is the main cause of infection in this type of infections. These infections many a times start with small, red bumps that gradually increase in size afterwards and causes skin irritation and discoloration. Some infections may be mild and can be easily medicated using antibiotics but other infections may call for oral antibiotics. Major skin infections caused by bacteria includes the following:

  • Cellulitis

The outer layers of the skin are involved in this type of skin infection. It is ordinarily the result of coming in contact with a bacteria called as beta-hemolytic streptococcus or Staphylococcus aureus.

  • Impetigo

Impetigo is a communicable skin infection that is caused by coming in contact with the bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus. Children aged between 2-5 years are more prone to such type of infections and is usually transmitted by coming in direct contact with another person who is having this skin infection.

  • Boils

The area having hair follicle or oil glands in our body are usually prone to boils. First effect of it is the emergence of redness in the area of infection and then a tender lump develops over it. After few days, the lump starts turning white in color and the lump is filled by pus under the skin.

  • Leprosy

Leprosy is particularly caused by a bacteria known as Mycobacteriumleprae that is basically a slow growing bacteria. Leprosy is also known by another name that is Hansen’s disease, named after the scientist who discovered it. M. leprae was the scientist who discovered it in 1873.

  • Folliculitis

Folliculitis is a skin infection that basically attacks the hair follicles and is commonly caused by Staphylococcus aureus. Red pimples occurs due to this bacteria.

  • Carbuncles

A painful clump of boils that are usually connected under the skin is called Carbuncles. It is red in color and often swollen.

2. Viral skin infections

The term viral infection makes it clear that it occurs because of virus. These infections may stretch from mild to severe. Viral infections comprises the following skin infections:

  • Shingles (herpes zoster)

When the chicken pox virus is reactivated in our body the result is this skin infection.

  • Chickenpox

Chickenpox is a viral infection that is particularly characterized by an itchy red rash. All of us must have experienced it once in our lifetime and it is said to be one of the most common infectious diseases in our childhood.

  • Molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a skin infection that causes pearl-like bumps (papules) on the surface of our skin. The main root cause of this infection is virus.

  • Warts

Warts are contagious non- cancerous skin growths that is result of virus. Whenever the top layer of our skin is infected by the virus causing it, wart emerges on our skin.

3. Fungal skin infections

Fungus is the main culprit in this type of infections and will most probably tends to develop in moist areas of the body, such as our feet and armpits. Certain fungal infections are not communicable and are not hazardous for person.

Different types of fungal infections are named as follows:

  • Athlete’s foot

As the name suggests, to experience this fungal skin infection one need not be an athlete. Athlete’s foot is the most common fungal infection that can be experienced by anyone whether it is men or women. It basically affects the upper surface of the foot around our toes and is caused by fungus called Trichophyton. It is easily found on floors and in clothing.

  • Ringworm

You might be thinking that Worms cause ringworm but it’s not true. But no, this superficial skin infection is commonly caused by a fungi named as dermatophytes. This infection has the other name that is called as tinea.

  • Nail fungus

This is a nail infection that occurs when our fingernail or toenail or skin inside our nails called as nail bed come in contact with a fungus.

  • Sporotrichosis

This fungal infection is more common among the gardeners who are always found working in roses, moss, hay, and soil as the culprit of this infection is found here.

A group of yeast is the main cause of this fungal infection. More than 20 species of Candida are there and the most common one is Candida albicans. These fungi is found on all the surfaces of our bodies.

4. Parasitic skin infections

Skin infections that are caused by the attack of parasites are known as parasitic skin infections. These infections may also go beyond our skin that is to the bloodstreams and our internal organs. A parasitic infection is not threatening but it can make us uneasy.

Following are the types of parasitic skin infections:-


Lice found in our head and hair, are the tiny blood sucking insects that basically lives in our hair. These are easily transferable in crowded conditions especially in our schools and colleges and exist worldwide.


Scabies occurs when the tiny mites burrow into the upper layer of skin to place their eggs inside such burrows. It is also easily communicable and can be transferred by coming in prolonged direct contact with the infected person.

Who all are at the risk of getting skin infections?

Those people are more at the risk of getting skin infections who have the following conditions:-

  • People having the poor circulation of blood.
  • Children and old people as they are considered weak.
  • People with weakened immunity system that may be result of any other disease or its counter medicines for example chemotherapy suppresses the immunity in person.
  • People staying in one position for a long time.
  • Malnutrition in people can also make the people prone to such infections.
  • Obesity that means having multiple skin folds.

What are the main symptoms of a skin infection?

The symptoms are contingent on the type of skin infections. The most obvious symptoms of skin infection includes color change in skin especially the red color or appearance of a rash. Other symptoms may also be observed in addition to the common ones for example itchiness, pain, paleness and tenderness of skin.

Pus-filled blisters on skin may be harmful if it doesn’t improve even after taking medical help. Skin infections may also go beyond our skin that is deep inside and up to the bloodstreams which could be hazardous for us.

Signals on our skin that may be harmful for us includes the following symptoms:

  • Pus in lumps.
  • Blisters
  • Skin sloughing and its breakdown and persistent dryness.
  • Dark, necrotic-appearing skin or skin that has become discolored and painful while touching it or not.

What are the common causes and risk factors involved in skin infection?

The cause of a skin infection is conditional to the type of the skin infection. As we all know there are 4 types of skin infections particularly caused by bacteria, parasite, fungi or virus.

Bacterial skin infection: This skin infection happens when the bacteria enters our body through a wound, such as a cut or a scratch. It doesn’t means that all the time you get a cut or scratch on skin you will also develop a skin infection. There are increased chances of getting skin infection from a cut or a scratch if you have weak immunity system. Weakened immunity may be an outcome of consistent illness or the side effect of counter-medicines.

Viral skin infection: There are three groups of viruses namely poxvirus, human papillomavirus, and herpes virus that causes the viral infections.

Fungal infection: The risk of a fungal infection is increased by multiple times if you have poor lifestyle and misbalance in your body chemistry. For instance if you are a runner or if you sweat a lot there are more chances of getting the athlete’s foot as Fungi tends to grow more in warm and moist environments. Also if you have the habit of wearing the wet clothes or you sweat a lot is a high risk factor for getting skin infections. An opening in the form of a break or cut in the skin may allow the harmful radicals to get into the deeper layers of the skin.

Parasitic skin infection: When minute insects or organisms make burrows underneath your skin and lay eggs, it leads to parasitic skin infection.

Skin infection and its diagnosis

A medical examination of the symptoms by a doctor is the best way to determine the type of skin infection. Often, doctors can usually identify the skin infection by its appearance and location. Skin specialist may ask about symptoms you observe and can closely examine bumps, lumps and rashes using its tools. For example, if there is distinct circular, scaly rash it is ringworm. Sometimes, samples of skin cells can also be taken to determine the type of skin infection.


Treatment of skin infection depends upon the cause, symptoms and their severity. For example there are certain types of viral skin infections that can be treated on our own by our body whereas other requires medications.

Bacterial infections can be easily treated by taking antibiotics either orally or by applying it in the form of creams and sprays.

For treating a fungal skin infection certain anti-fungal sprays and creams are available in the market. And, if your condition is not improving, you can ask your doctor about it. Moreover, you can also apply medicated creams for treating skin infection caused by parasites. Anti-inflammatory drugs or such medications may also be prescribed.

Home care and alternative treatments

Home remedies for a skin infection work or not totally depends upon your severity of skin infection. Certain Home care remedies are:-

  • Use cold compresses for your skin frequently to reduce pain, itchiness and inflammation.
  • Taking over-the-counter antihistamines for reducing the itching in skin.
  • Use natural ointments and creams tending to reduce the discomfort.

Take medical advice of your doctor if none of above treatments are working.

Prevention of skin infections

Since many skin infections are easily communicable that’s why people should be careful while going in public areas. One should avoid the direct physical contact with the infected person. It is also important to take care of wounds and carefully observe the wounds. You should take the medical help if the symptoms have become uncontrollable or are not natural.

People who are infected with such skin infections should also prevent themselves from coming in contact with other person to avoid its spread until all the symptoms are clear off or they have received clean chit from their doctor.


Skin infections occur very easily throughout the world as they are easily communicable from one person to another. So anyone can be at the risk of getting them. It is therefore necessary to take some precautions.

It is advisable to seek medical attention as soon as possible if some of unexplained rashes or skin problem consistently occurs for a long time even after giving home treatment.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK8301/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12126026
  3. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/cjidmm/2008/846453/
  4. https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/68/Supplement_3/S206/5428807

Categorized in:

Skin Care,

Last Update: May 9, 2020