Folliculitis is a condition in which the hair follicles get inflamed. This could develop in any part of the body that has hair, but is most common in the beard area, arms, buttocks, backs, and legs.
Folliculitis can be caused due to bacteria, yeast or any other type of fungus. It is most commonly caused due to damaged hair follicles during shaving or constant irritation on the clothes due to certain clothes fabrics. It is also caused due to blocked follicles, resulting from sweat, grime, machine oils and greasy makeup. It is when the follicles become injured that they get infected thus giving rise to folliculitis.
The risk for getting folliculitis increases in the following instances
- You are regularly using tubs, whirlpools or swimming pools that are not properly treated with chlorine
- Wearing tight, body hugging clothes
- Coming in constant contact with greasy substances such as motor oil, tar, and creosote
- Using heavy and greasy makeup
- There is an infection over cuts, scrapes and surgical wound
- Immunity lowering diseases existing in the body
- Lowered immunity after a surgery or recovery from some other disease
You know it is folliculitis if there is a small, red pimple like bump on the skin with a hair in the center. These are itchy and may have pus inside them. If the infection is severe, the person may also experience a burning sensation. Upon squeezing, they may drain out both pus and blood. There are different types of folliculitis. If it is a ‘hot tub folliculitis”, it occurs after 72 hours of having used a spa or a hot tub. The smaller pimples usually appear on the stomach, arms, and legs. Sometimes, they may also be accompanied by a mild fever and an upset stomach. These smaller ones usually do not need any treatment and go away in 7 to 10 days.
Since folliculitis is a self-limited skin condition, it rarely leads to any serious complications. Possible complications include
- Recurrent infections
- Spreading to a larger area
- Enlargement of the bumps causing furuncles or carbuncles
- Permanent damage to the skin like scarring and dark spots
- Destruction of follicles thus leading to permanent hair loss
If the abscesses grow to a very large size they may have to be removed through surgical procedures. If the infections grow deeper and more extensive, it could also result in cellulitis.
If the folliculitis is very mild, no treatment is required. It heals by itself in about 2 weeks. The following treatment should help to speed up the healing
- Pressing the affected area with a warm towel soaked in water and then the excess water wrung out. This is mainly helpful in providing relief from itchiness
- Medicated soaps, shampoos and body washes for daily use
If the inflammation is severe, doctors may prescribe topical or oral antibiotics. If the inflammation is very recurrent or does not go away, laser hair removal is done to completely destroy the hair follicles.