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Impetigo : Causes, symptoms and treatments

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Impetigo is caused due to a bacterial infection on the skin. It appears as red sores on the surface of the skin, they may get filled with fluid, break open and form crusting. These can develop on any part of the body. Impetigo most commonly affects children and is also known as school sores. However, in some cases, it is also likely for adults to develop the condition. The sores usually appear in and around the mouth. However, constant scratching may also spread the sore to other areas of the body. It is a contagious skin condition and often spreads through the sharing of sheets, towels, and clothing.

Causes

Impetigo is caused due to two types of bacteria – streptococcus and staphylococcus. These bacteria often enter the skin when there is a puncture in the skin barrier such as burns, cuts, insect bites, poison ivy or other skin conditions such as eczema that reduce the skin’s defense making it easier for the bacteria to get through. They are also likely to occur after cold or allergies that leave the skin weak. However, it is also equally likely to develop in people with healthy skin.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of impetigo include

  • Small red spots that eventually turn into blisters and break open. Although the sores are not painful, they do cause intense itchiness
  • The blisters may ooze out fluid and form a crust
  • The sores may rapidly proliferate thus covering a large area in a very short span of time. Theses sores can come in any size, as a small as a pimple or as large as a coin

Consequences

Impetigo is in no way a life threatening condition. Upon correct treatment, they can clear off in just days. However, there are also certain complications that can arise out of the condition. These include

  • Scarring
  • Cellulitis
  • Kidney problems

Scarring can be intense, especially if the child is constantly picking at the sores. If the affected person contracts cellulitis, it could spread to the lymph nodes and the blood stream, which can become life threatening. In rare cases, impetigo also causes a condition known as post streptococcal glomerulonephritis, which can cause kidney failure.

Treatment

Impetigo is not at all a threatening condition and clears away very easily on being treated. If the condition is still mild, regular cleansing of the sores, crust removal followed by the application of antibiotic ointments like mupirocin can effectively control and heal the condition in a very short span of time. Non-prescription antibiotics like Neosporin are usually not rendered effective. Oral antibiotic medications are taken only if the condition becomes severe and spreads to a wider area.

Since most of the staph germs have developed resistance to antibiotic over the years, not every antibiotic may be effective for everyone. The ones which have a higher chance of effectively treating the condition include penicillin derivatives such as amoxicillin – clavulanic acid and cephalosporins such as cephalexin. Examination of the bacteria taken from the affected area may help the doctors in giving more effective prescriptions.

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