Four Things You Need To Know About Ecthyma

Many different conditions can lead to itchy or painful lesions on your body. One condition that may be responsible for your lesions is ecthyma. Ecthyma is a type of bacterial skin infection that is a more serious version of impetigo; here are four things that you need to know about it.

What are the signs of ecthyma?

If you have ecthyma, you will notice that you have lesions on your skin. Usually, the lesions will form on the lower extremities. At first, these lesions look like blisters or pimples on top of a red, swollen area of skin. As the lesions progress, the inflamed skin will become ulcerated, and a crusty layer will form on top of the area. This crust tends to be a grayish-yellow color and is thick and hard. If you itch the lesions, you may inadvertently spread them to other parts of your body.

The lesions associated with ecthyma can grow as large as 3 centimeters (1.2 inches) in diameter. These lesions tend to heal slowly, and when they do finally heal, you will be left with a scar. If you notice these lesions on your body, make an appointment with a dermatologist right away for an examination.

What causes ecthyma?

Ecthyma is caused by infection with Streptococcus pyogenes, a type of bacteria. This bacteria is one of many that is naturally present on your skin. Many factors can allow this bacteria to multiply out of control and lead to disease.

For example, immunosuppression can allow the bacteria to spread as your immune system is not able to keep the Streptococcus pyogenes population under control. This can be the case for people who have diabetes, cancer, or HIV infection or who have received an organ transplant.

Injuries to your skin can also be the trigger required for ecthyma to develop. Minor injuries such as scratches, insect bites, or even chafing may be responsible.

Humid or hot conditions may also allow the bacteria to spread, so you may develop it during the summer months or while you are on a tropical holiday.

How serious is this condition?

Ecthyma is a serious condition, and not just because of the painful and itchy lesions that it causes. The issue with ecthyma is that the bacteria that causes it, Streptococcus pyogenes, can also cause a lot of other health problems if it spreads to other parts of your body. These health problems range from mild to life-threatening.

Mild complications include things like strep throat and sinus infections. More serious problems include osteomyelitis (bone infections) or septic arthritis (joint infections). The bacteria is also responsible for infamous diseases such as scarlet fever or flesh-eating disease. Fortunately, these complications can be avoided by getting prompt treatment for ecthyma. Once the bacteria is taken care of, it cannot spread to other parts of your body and cause problems.

How is it treated?

The treatment for ecthyma is fairly simple and is the same as the treatment for impetigo. Your dermatologist will prescribe antibiotics, like penicillin, to kill the bacteria. Make sure to follow your dermatologist's dosing instructions to the letter; not taking enough antibiotics or stopping the course too early can allow your infection to come back and contributes to antibiotic resistance.

If you're very itchy, your dermatologist may also recommend antihistamines. Antihistamines are typically used to combat allergic reactions, but they can also help with your itching.

To remove your lesions, your dermatologist may recommend washing them with soap and water or holding warm compresses against them. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after doing this to avoid spreading the bacteria to other parts of your body.

If you have itchy, sore lesions on your skin, see your dermatologist right away. Your dermatologist can diagnose the problem and then begin treatment. You can click to find out more about dermatologist services in your area.