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Erythrasma

Erythrasma is a long-term skin infection caused by bacteria. It commonly occurs in skin folds.

Causes

Erythrasma is caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium minutissimum.

Erythrasma is more common in warm climates. You are more likely to develop this condition if you are overweight, older, or have diabetes.

Symptoms

The main symptoms are reddish-brown slightly scaly patches with sharp borders. They may itch slightly. The patches occur in moist areas such as the groin, armpit, and skin folds.

The patches often look similar to other fungal infections, such as ringworm.

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will check your skin and ask about the symptoms.

These tests can help diagnose erythrasma:

  • Lab tests of scrapings from the skin patch
  • Examination under a special lamp called a Wood lamp
  • A skin biopsy

Treatment

Your provider may suggest the following:

  • Gentle scrubbing of the skin patches with antibacterial soap
  • Antibiotic medicine applied to the skin
  • Antibiotics taken by mouth
  • Laser treatment

Outlook (Prognosis)

The condition should go away after treatment. 

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you have symptoms of erythrasma.

Prevention

You may be able to reduce the risk of erythrasma if you:

  • Bathe or shower often
  • Keep your skin dry
  • Wear clean clothes that absorb moisture
  • Avoid very hot or damp conditions
  • Maintain a healthy body weight

References

Barkham MC. Erythrasma. In: Lebwohl MG, Heymann WR, Berth-Jones J, Coulson IH, eds. Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Limited; 2018:chap 76.

Dinulos JGH. Superficial fungal infections. In: Dinulos JGH, ed. Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 13.

  • Skin layers

    Skin layers - illustration

    The skin is the largest organ of the body. The skin and its derivatives (hair, nails, sweat and oil glands) make up the integumentary system. One of the main functions of the skin is protection. It protects the body from external factors such as bacteria, chemicals, and temperature. The skin contains secretions that can kill bacteria and the pigment melanin provides a chemical pigment defense against ultraviolet light that can damage skin cells. Another important function of the skin is body temperature regulation. When the skin is exposed to a cold temperature, the blood vessels in the dermis constrict. This allows the blood which is warm, to bypass the skin. The skin then becomes the temperature of the cold it is exposed to. Body heat is conserved since the blood vessels are not diverting heat to the skin anymore. Among its many functions the skin is an incredible organ always protecting the body from external agents.

    Skin layers

    illustration

    • Skin layers

      Skin layers - illustration

      The skin is the largest organ of the body. The skin and its derivatives (hair, nails, sweat and oil glands) make up the integumentary system. One of the main functions of the skin is protection. It protects the body from external factors such as bacteria, chemicals, and temperature. The skin contains secretions that can kill bacteria and the pigment melanin provides a chemical pigment defense against ultraviolet light that can damage skin cells. Another important function of the skin is body temperature regulation. When the skin is exposed to a cold temperature, the blood vessels in the dermis constrict. This allows the blood which is warm, to bypass the skin. The skin then becomes the temperature of the cold it is exposed to. Body heat is conserved since the blood vessels are not diverting heat to the skin anymore. Among its many functions the skin is an incredible organ always protecting the body from external agents.

      Skin layers

      illustration


     

    Review Date: 11/4/2020

    Reviewed By: Elika Hoss, MD, Senior Associate Consultant, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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