Impetigo is an infection of the skin caused by a bacteria. These infections can be highly contagious, and are easily spread not only from person to person, but also from one part of your body to another.
Impetigo infections typically take on two distinct forms. The first form is a vesiculopustular type in which you see thick gold colored, crusty lesions caused by staph aureus or certain species of streptococci. The second type is a bolus type, typically associated with staph aureus.
Impetigo is commonly seen in children, although it is not a pediatric disease. Anyone can be infected and show symptoms of impetigo.
The only symptom of impetigo is severe itching. On examination, the patient will have numerous lesions all over their skin. These lesions can take the form of flat macules, oozy pustules, and gold colored, crusty lesions.
When these crusty lesions are scraped away, they will often leave a denuded area of red skin. The most common location for impetigo is the face, although any other part of exposed skin can be involved.
In order to diagnose impetigo, your doctor will take a small sample of one of the lesions. This sample can be stained, and cultured. The culture will attempt to grow the bacteria which is causing the impetigo infection. If the bacteria is successfully grown, your doctor will be able to customize treatment for the infection.
There are two other conditions which can resemble impetigo. In order to successfully treat impetigo, it is important to rule these out before initiating therapy. Contact dermatitis can potentially resemble an impetigo infection. In these cases, the culture taken will not grow any bacteria. The other potential condition which can mimic impetigo is a herpes infection. Again, a herpes infection will not culture bacteria.
Treatment for an impetigo infection involves the use of antibiotics. Topical antibiotics are not typically as effective as oral antibiotics for impetigo. Your doctor has several antibiotics available, however some of the more common selections include Doxycycline and cephalosporins.
There is some concern that many of the bacteria, which cause impetigo, especially staph aureus, can be resistant to some antibiotics. In cases of resistant infections doxycycline, clindamycin and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole can be used.
Because impetigo is highly infectious, it is very important to isolate someone who has an infection in order to prevent the spread. Lesions which are open, crusty, or weeping any fluid must be managed with care. They can be cleaned with warm washcloths and towels. It is important not to wash these towels in the regular laundry and to keep them away from anyone who could be at risk for an impetigo infection.