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Erythrasma

Definition

Erythrasma is a long-term bacterial infection that usually appears in the area between overlapping skin (skin folds).

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

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 or have diabetes.

Symptoms

The main symptoms are reddish-brown slightly scaly patches with sharp borders. The patches occur in moist areas such as the groin, armpit, and skin folds. They may itch slightly and often look like patches associated with other fungal infections, such as ringworm.

Signs and tests

Treatment

Gently scrubbing the skin patches with antibacterial soap may help them go away. Prescription erythromycin gel applied to the skin also works very well. In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe erythromycin pills.

Expectations (prognosis)

Complete recovery is expected following treatment.

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms of erythrasma develop.

Prevention

These measures may reduce the risk of erythrasma:

  • Maintaining good hygiene
  • Keeping the skin dry
  • Wearing clean, absorbent clothing
  • Avoiding excessive heat or moisture
  • Maintaining healthy body weight

References

Browning J, Levy M. Cellulitis and superficial skin infections. In: Long SS, ed. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 72.

Habif TP. Superficial and fungal infections. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 13.


Review Date: 10/10/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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