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Common bacterial skin infections are usually caused by a couple of families of bacteria, staphylococcus aureus, and streptococcus pyogenes, more commonly known as staph and strep respectively. Streptococcus pyogenes, just like it sounds, is the bacteria that causes strep throat, and it along with strains of staph, is usually harmless when found on the surface of your skin. However, infections occur when these bacteria get under your skin or in your bloodstream. 

These common types of bacterial skin conditions can range from mildly irritating symptoms to life-threatening, depending on the severity of the infection. These skin infections can be diagnosed by a Tennessee dermatologist who can then prescribe treatment or refer you to a specialist if needed. Most infections are also easy to identify and prescribe treatment for through telehealth appointments.



Furuncles are singular boils that form around the hair follicles and can grow to affect deeper layers of the skin.

Abscesses usually form around these infected follicles, creating swelling and inflammation around the boil.



One of the more serious bacterial skin infections, a carbuncle is a group of boils (furuncles) that form close together. A carbuncle may ooze pus from one or several points from around the boil onto the surrounding skin.

If you have a carbuncle, you should keep the area as clean as possible as the pus can cause the infection to spread.

Also, carbuncles infect deeper layers of the skin, which makes them more likely to form a scar after the infection resolves.

Carbuncles can also leave you feeling overall unwell. And if left untreated, and the infection spreads into the surrounding tissues, it can cause cellulitis, fever, and chills.


Impetigo and Ecthyma

This condition is caused by an infection of strep bacteria, staph bacteria, or a combination of both. Impetigo is usually a superficial skin condition that presents as scabby sores with a yellow crust, and small fever blisters filled with yellow fluid.

Ecthyma is a more specific type of impetigo that occurs at deeper levels of the skin.



This skin infection is caused by the bacterium corynebacterium minutissimum and only infects the top layers of the skin. Most cases of erythrasma occur on the foot, but it can also occur in the area around the groin and can spread to the lower abdomen if left untreated.

When the infection occurs on the foot, symptoms include scaling between the toes and cracking of the skin. When erythrasma occurs around the groin, symptoms include pink and brown patches of skin along with scaling.


Bacterial Folliculitis

This is a common infection of the hair follicles that can occur when either fungi or bacteria get trapped around the follicle. Other causes include ingrown hairs and blockages from dirt or soap residue. 

The most common symptom of bacterial folliculitis is the formation of tiny white-headed pimples all on separate hair follicles. Symptoms will usually resolve on their own, but if they get worse, you may need antibiotic treatment.


Pseudomonas Folliculitis or Hot Tub Folliculitis

This type of bacterial skin infection occurs when the Pseudomonas aeruginosa infects the hair follicles around the chest or the groin. The Pseudomonas bacteria is more resilient than many strains of bacteria as it can survive even in chlorinated pool water. People usually notice this infection develop after swimming in older hot tubs or pools. Hence the nickname “hot tub folliculitis.”

Symptoms include pus-filled bumps or lesions around the infected area as well as a red itchy rash.



Cellulitis is a secondary condition that can result from any type of bacterial skin infection. But it is most often characterized by an infection of the lower two layers of skin by  Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, or a combination of both. Once present, the infection continues to spread through the subdermal skin tissues until treated.

Symptoms of cellulitis include:

  • Redness
  • Fever
  • Swelling
  • Chills
  • Tenderness

The area around the infection may also become warm to the touch.



Erysipelas is usually caused by an infection of Strep. bacteria, but can also be caused by Staph., and MRSA. Infections present as a shiny raised red patch of skin with clearly defined edges. The patch is painful and warm to the touch. Additional symptoms include a high fever and chills.


Necrotizing Skin Infections

At the later stages of severe cellulitis, skin tissues can experience necrosis or death. Skin infections of this level are rare and are preventable if earlier skin infections are treated in a timely manner.

Patients who have necrotizing infections will also be experiencing pain, high fever, and overall illness.


Wound Infections

Even tiny wounds like paper cuts, scratches, bug bites, and scrapes can result in serious infections if not taken care of properly. Bacterial skin infections start when the bacteria can get past your skin and can start causing problems.

First aid for any wound should include carefully and thoroughly washing the area with soap and warm water. This will help prevent giving bacteria time to infect the wound.


Small or Large Skin Abscesses

Pus-filled abscesses usually form around the site of bacterial skin infections. The size and severity of these abscesses will vary.

Tiny abscesses may form in conjunction with folliculitis. Boils and carbuncles are types of abscesses that range in size from small to large. Smaller abscesses usually respond to antibiotic treatment, topical treatment, and applying a warm compress to encourage the abscess to drain.

Large abscesses usually need to be drained in-office by a doctor. Treatment usually also involves oral antibiotics and packing the wound with sterile gauze.


Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)

These are the most dangerous strains related to bacterial skin infections. MRSA can be present in any of the previously mentioned skin infections. However, MRSA is not as easy to catch in everyday life, because the strains of these bacteria usually only develop in healthcare facilities.

Strains of MRSA develop resistance to penicillin-related antibiotics that are commonly used in medical environments. As a result, most MRSA infections only happen after transmission through a contaminated medical facility.

However, community transmission cases do still occur.

MRSA infections can be diagnosed by a Tennessee dermatologist, even through telehealth appointments.


Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

TSS is an acute systemic disease caused by Strep., Staph., and other environmental toxins. It is a fairly complex disease that affects the whole body. In a dermatology practice, we may recognize some symptoms and then recommend further treatment from your doctor or other specialists.

Dermatologic Symptoms of TSS

  • A widespread flat red rash
  • Scaling or shedding of skin on the palms or soles of the feet, typically after 1-2 weeks after symptoms start
  • Redness and irritation of the mucosal membranes
  • Fever
  • Severe muscle aches and pains

Full diagnosis of TSS requires lab analysis. Therefore, if you show signs of TSS, we will refer you to your doctor for testing and treatment.


Treatment for Common Bacterial Skin Infections with Tennessee TeleDerm

Do you have a skin infection that’s causing problems, but you don’t want to wait to get into the doctor’s office? Schedule an online dermatology appointment with Tennessee TeleDerm. Through our convenient telehealth appointments, we can diagnose and prescribe treatment for minor to mild bacterial skin infections.

Have questions or comments, or want to book an appointment?

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