An Introduction to Folliculitis

Folliculitis is a condition that describes the inflammation of one or more hair follicles resulting in red bumps forming on the skin which can be unpleasant. This can occur anywhere on the body, but is commonly seen on the arms, legs and face.

Folliculitis can have a number of causes and is often a symptom of another condition. Often it is an indirect result of staphylococcus aureus. This is a spherical bacterium that is found on the skin flora that cannot normally penetrate the skin and the body’s other defences but becomes effective once the skin is broken and/or the patient’s immunity is low. This is the most common cause of staph infection, one form of which is the well known MRSA or ‘hospital bug’.

Often the folliculitis starts when hair follicles become damaged due to friction from either clothing, insect bites, blockage of the follicles (which can be caused by the use of certain products or shaving), hair pulling or other instances. This then gives the bateria staphylococcus (staph, as mentioned above) a chance to begin infecting the damaged area around it. Damage to the skin follicles will regularly result in this infection as around 25% of all adults have the staphylococcus bacteria on their skin without it affecting them.

There are other causes and risk factors involved with folliculitis however. For example iron deficiency (also known as anemia) is associated with chronic cases of the condition. Other bacteria can also cause the condition such as the bacteria pseudomonas aeruginosa which results in ‘hot tub folliculitis’ (so named due to the bacteria often being found in new hot tubs); or the herpes simplex virus which causes the condition ‘herpetic folliculitis’.

Generally treatment of the folliculitis will involve a topical treatment with an antiseptic cream which will be adequate in most cases. In others antibiotics may be used either topically as an ointment or orally.

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