Impetigo

Treatment

Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection that primarily affects young children but can also occur in adults. It is caused by either Streptococcus pyogenes or Staphylococcus aureus bacteria and is typically characterized by itchy red sores or blisters that burst and form honey-colored scabs. These scabs may spread to other areas of the body through scratching.

The infection is commonly transmitted through direct contact with the sores or by touching contaminated objects such as towels, clothing, or bed linens. Impetigo is more prevalent in warm and humid climates, as well as crowded environments like schools or daycare centers.

Prompt treatment with prescription antibiotics can prevent complications and further spread of this common skin infection. If left untreated, impetigo can occasionally lead to more serious conditions like cellulitis or a kidney infection called post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis.

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Red skin sores or blisters on the skin

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Blisters that burst and develop a honey-colored crust

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Discomfort or itchy skin around the affected area

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Swollen lymph nodes 

Impetigo can vary in severity, and not all individuals may experience all of these symptoms. Consulting a medical provider is recommended for an accurate impetigo diagnosis and effective treatment plan. For patients who already have a treatment plan, our board-certified doctors can refill an existing prescription.

Impetigo is a contagious skin infection primarily caused by bacteria, with the most common culprits being Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. It can affect individuals of all ages, including adults, but mostly affects children between ages two to five. 

The bacteria responsible for impetigo can enter the skin through cuts, scratches, or insect bites, as well as through openings such as the nose and mouth. The infection is highly contagious and can spread through direct contact with an infected person, contaminated objects, or even from one part of the body to another.

In the case of impetigo with blisters, the bacteria invade the skin, causing the formation of fluid-filled blisters. These blisters can burst, leading to the characteristic crust that gives impetigo its distinctive appearance. The infection often occurs in areas where the skin is compromised or prone to breaks, such as the legs.

While impetigo is more commonly associated with children, impetigo for adults is possible when someone has a weak immune system or pre-existing skin conditions. Poor hygiene, crowded living conditions, and warm weather can also contribute to the spread of impetigo.

An impetigo diagnosis typically involves a combination of clinical examination and, in some cases, laboratory testing. In most cases, laboratory testing is not necessary, especially with the presence of impetigo blisters or bumps. Put more specifically, medical providers will take the following into consideration:   

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Impetigo Symptoms: doctors will evaluate any symptoms visually present, including fluid filled blisters, inflammation, and especially honey-colored crust characteristic of the infection. 

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Clinical Examination: A physical examination in person or by picture will generally be the most needed, especially when crusting or blisters are present. 

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Impetigo Differential Diagnosis: Alongside the initial examination, doctors may consider conducting tests to rule out similar conditions, including herpes, dermatitis, and fungal infections. This will most often be conducted for impetigo in adults. 

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Laboratory Tests: In some cases, healthcare providers may perform laboratory tests, such as bacterial cultures, to identify the specific bacteria causing the infection. This can help guide appropriate antibiotic treatment.

Impetigo treatment typically involves the use of oral or topical antibiotics to irradicate the bacteria from the body. Alongside the prescribing of either option, most doctors would stress the importance of regular use and completing the entire prescription to ensure there is no reinfection. Follow-up appointments may be requested after the impetigo treatment is complete, but most often, a confirmation that impetigo symptoms have ceased will suffice. 

While someone is undergoing impetigo treatment, there are some practices that can help alleviate symptoms, prevent spread, and improve the effectiveness of the medication. Such practices include: 

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Avoiding scratching and face touching

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Keeping the affected area clean and dry

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Isolating contaminated items

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Avoiding close contact with others

Impetigo prevention is most often associated with keeping up good hygiene and immune system strength. Habits that help with that include: 

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Promptly cleaning any scratches, cuts, and insect bites

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Avoiding unnecessary physical contact

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Regularly washing clothing and linens

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Using antibacterial soap

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Using antibacterial soaps

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Teaching children the value of hand hygiene

Impetigo treatment involves the use of oral or topical antibiotics, such as:

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Topical Ointment Centany (Mupirocin) 

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Oral Antibiotics Doxycycline and Cephalexin

Topical antibiotic ointments used to treat impetigo can sometimes cause local skin irritation, such as redness, itching, or a burning sensation. Oral antibiotics can trigger gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal discomfort, and allergic reactions, such as hives or swelling, may also occur.

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