Effects of Impetigo

It's Not Just About Kids

This very itchy, highly contagious skin ailment is usually found on children, however can be present in adults as well.  Impetigo is caused by either of two common bacteria found normally on the body - Staphylococcus aureus (staph), the most common, and Steptococcus pyogenes (strep).  These bacteria live harmlessly on the skin until such time as there is a cut, scratch or other type of wound which enables the bacteria to enter the body and create an infection.

Children are most frequently infected through cuts, scrapes or insect bites while adults contract impetigo usually as a result of a skin injury or other type of dermatitis.  If exposed to someone with impetigo, just touching anything they've touched or using common items such as clothing, towels or linen, can be enough to spread the infection.  Impetigo tends to be more common in the summer when the weather is warmer and humid.  Sports participation with someone infected with impetigo can cause infection.  People with diabetes or a compromised immune system are also at risk, especially for ecthyma, a more serious form of impetigo.

It Can Get Worse?

Examination by a health professional, who usually takes a swab and has it sent to a laboratory for analysis, determines the type of treatment used.  Although impetigo is not typically a serious or dangerous problem, there are occasionally complications which do arise from it.   A kidney inflammation may develop in persons who have had impetigo.  Poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis or PSGN occurs when antibodies which are formed because of the infection end up damaging the glomeruli (small structures) that act as filters for waste in the kidneys.  In extreme cases PSGN may lead to kidney failure, but most people recover without such problems.  Facial swelling, blood in the urine, elevated blood pressure and painful joints are some of the indications of PSGN.

Cellulitis, a potentially life-threatening infection can affect underlying skin tissue and could spread to the lymph nodes and bloodstream.  MRSA infection, a particularly serious type of antibiotic resistant staph bacteria causes skin infections which are difficult to treat.  MRSA may also cause pneumonia or blood infections as well.

Treatment For The Itch

Treatment includes primarily hygienic measures such as keeping the skin and environment as clean as possible.  Topical antibiotics, which avert the side effects of oral antibiotics, are used to relieve itching and speed the healing of sores.  Oral antibiotics, usually prescribed for more extreme cases such as ecthyma, are administered according to the severity of the outbreak.  As always, proper hygiene and prompt treatment will keep impetigo from spreading and intensifying.