Erythrasma

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Definition

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 I, eds. Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2014:chap 74.

Habif TP. Superficial fungal infections. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 13.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 10/31/2016
  • Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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