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Folliculitis is an infection in the hair follicles.
Each hair on your body grows out of a tiny pouch called a follicle. You can
have folliculitis on any part of your body that has hair. But it is most common
on the face and scalp and areas rubbed by clothing, such as the thighs and
It usually is caused by
bacteria. It also can be caused by yeast or another
You may get folliculitis if you
have damaged hair follicles. Shaving or wearing clothes that rub the skin can
irritate the follicles, which can lead to folliculitis. They also can become
blocked or irritated by sweat, machine oils, or makeup. When the follicles are
injured, they are more likely to become infected.
You are more
likely to get folliculitis if you:
Folliculitis usually looks
like red pimples with a hair in the center of each one. The pimples may have
pus in them, and they may itch or burn. When the pimples break open, they may
drain pus, blood, or both.
"Hot tub folliculitis" most often appears about 72 hours after you've been in a hot tub or spa. Many small pimples appear on your stomach and sometimes on your arms and legs. You might have a mild fever and have an upset stomach. Most of the time, this kind of folliculitis goes away on its own in 7 to 10 days.
Your doctor will
check your skin and ask about your health and activities. He or she may do
tests to find out what is causing your folliculitis and to make sure you don’t
have a different problem, such as
impetigo or heat rash. Testing a sample of the fluid
in the pimples or a sample of tissue can help your doctor learn what is causing
Mild folliculitis usually heals
on its own in about 2 weeks. You can take care of yourself at home with:
the infection doesn't go away, you may need an
antibiotic or antifungal cream. If your infection is
severe, your doctor will prescribe antibiotic or antifungal pills.
Call your doctor if you have folliculitis and:
If the infection doesn't go away or keeps coming back,
laser hair removal may be an option. Laser treatment destroys the hair
follicles so they can't get infected.
There are many
things you can do to prevent folliculitis or keep it from spreading.
Learning about folliculitis:
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) provides information
about the care of skin. You can locate a dermatologist in your
area by using their "Find a Dermatologist" tool. Or you can read the latest news in dermatology. "SPOT Skin Cancer" is the AAD's program to reduce deaths from melanoma. There is also a link called "Skin Conditions" that has information about many common skin problems.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is
an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The CDC works
with state and local health officials and the public to achieve better health
for all people. The CDC creates the expertise, information, and tools that
people and communities need to protect their health—by promoting health,
preventing disease, injury, and disability, and being prepared for new health
Other Works ConsultedBerger TG (2012). Dermatologic disorders. In SJ McPhee, MA Papadakis, eds., 2012 Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, 51st ed., pp. 93–163. New York: McGraw-Hill.Craft N (2012). Superficial cutaneous infections and pyodermas. In LA Goldman et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 8th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2128–2147. New York: McGraw-Hill.Habif TP (2010). Cellulitis and erysipelas section of Bacterial infections. In Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy, 5th ed., pp. 342–350. Philadelphia: Mosby.Hall JC (2010). Dermatologic bacteriology. In JC Hall, ed., Sauer's Manual of Skin Diseases, 10th ed., pp. 202–219. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.Korman NJ (2012).Macular, papular, vesiculobullous, and pustular diseases. In L Goldman, A Shafer, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine, 24th ed., pp. 2522–2532. Philadelphia: Saunders.Pasternack MS, Swartz MN (2010). Cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis, and subcutaneous tissue infections section of Skin and soft tissue infections. In GL Mandell et al., eds., Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 7th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1289–1312. Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
May 25, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology
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