Impetigo is a skin condition caused by certain types of bacteria. It is rarely serious, but can be quite uncomfortable and even embarrassing as it usually manifests by sores on the face and neck. This highly contagious condition is much more common among children and does not affect adults very often. Though this skin infection can be uncomfortable, it usually resolves within a couple of weeks.
Causes of Impetigo
Impetigo is caused by two different kinds of bacteria – Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyrogens. These bacteria are not dangerous as they already live on our skin, and usually cause an infection when they enter a cut or a wound. This is why impetigo found in adults is usually a consequence of an injury to the skin. Children are more prone to getting infected without having visible skin damage. Once present in the body, the staphylococcus aureus bacteria creates a toxin that causes a potential spread of the condition on the skin nearby. By touching the skin, the condition can be spread.
There are two main types of this condition – bullous impetigo and non-bullous impetigo. The first type is mostly found in small children and infants, while the second one is more common and can be found in children and adults alike.
Symptoms and Treatment of Impetigo
Bullous impetigo that usually affects infants is manifested by fluid-filled blisters that can be seen on the legs and arms of the baby. The skin turns red, but there is no pain or bruising, only itching. These blisters can spread quite quickly and sometimes burst, which is evident by a yellowish surface on the skin.
Non-bullous impetigo, that is more common, appears on the face, covering the area of the nose and mouth with sores. These sores may be visually unpleasant as they tend to release liquid or pus, after which yellowish or brown crusts remain. These, however, heal after a certain period of time without leaving any scar tissue. As in the other type of the condition, the sores are not generally painful, but can itch and make you feel uncomfortable. It is recommended not to touch the affected area, as strong scratching may leave scars, but can spread the infection to other people near you. If the symptoms are severe, you may experience a slight fever.
In both cases, the symptom appear around 5-12 days after the first contact with the bacteria. At this point the condition is very contagious. Impetigo is quite easy to diagnose once you seek medical assistance. Once identified, the primary goal is to stop spreading on other parts of the body and prevent complications (though these are very rare). The healing process is accelerated by the use of antibiotics in the form of an ointment applied directly to the skin or oral antibiotics to kick-start you immune system and shorten the natural healing process. This generally lasts 7-10 days, after which the symptoms disappear completely.
Prevention is also important and can be achieved by maintaining a high level of personal hygiene and keeping your face and hands clean at all times.