HealthSearch

Health Guide
Images

Ecthyma

Definition

Ecthyma is a skin infection. It is similar to impetigo, but occurs deep inside the skin. For this reason, ecthyma is often called deep impetigo.

Alternative Names

Streptococcus - ecthyma; Strep - ecthyma; Staphylococcus - ecthyma; Staph - ecthyma; Skin infection - ecthyma

Causes

Ecthyma is most often caused by the streptococcus bacteria. Sometimes, staphylococcus bacteria cause this skin infection on its own or in combination with streptococcus.

The infection may start in skin that has been injured due to a scratch, rash, or insect bite. The infection often develops on the legs. People with diabetes or a weakened immune system are more prone to ecthyma.

Symptoms

Main symptom of ecthyma is a small blister with a red border that may be filled with pus. The blister is similar to that seen with impetigo, but the infection spreads much deeper into the skin.

After the blister goes away, a crusty ulcer appears.

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider can usually diagnose this condition simply by looking at your skin. In rare cases, the fluid inside the blister is sent to a lab for closer examination, or a skin biopsy needs to be done.

Treatment

Your provider will usually prescribe antibiotics that you need to take by mouth (oral antibiotics). Very early cases may be treated with antibiotics that you apply to the affected area (topical antibiotics). Serious infections may need antibiotics given through a vein (intravenous antibiotics).

Placing a warm, wet cloth over the area can help remove ulcer crusts. Your provider may recommend antiseptic soap or peroxide washes to speed recovery.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Ecthyma can sometimes result in scarring.

Possible Complications

This condition may lead to:

  • Spread of infection to other parts of the body
  • Permanent skin damage with scarring

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Make an appointment with your provider if you have symptoms of ecthyma.

Prevention

Carefully clean the skin after an injury such as a bite or scratch. Do not scratch or pick at scabs and sores.

References

James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM. Bacterial infections. In: James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 14.

Pasternack MS, Swartz MN. Cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis, and subcutaneous tissue infections. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 95.


Review Date: 5/10/2017
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.