Your skin is the largest organ of your body. It has many functions, including protecting your internal organs from external infecting factors. However, sometimes skin itself becomes infected. This happens because the skin is constantly bombarded with millions of agents like bacteria, fungi, and viruses. As we age, our skin becomes more fragile, leading to easy entry of these agents into minute crevices inside our skin and make their home there.

There are several types of skin infections. Each type of infection has a specific set of symptoms and the course of treatment. Some infections are harmless, some are harmful. Some appear only on specific areas of skin, while some are spread all over the body. Some heal naturally with time, while some need medical intervention to get better. Some have no side effects, while others have long-lasting effects like pain. In most cases, the skin develops rashes, redness, swelling or scales, though in some cases, these symptoms are absent.

There are four main types of skin infections:

  1. Bacterial
  2. Fungal
  3. Viral
  4. Parasitic

It is important to understand the difference between bacterial and fungal infections as these are the two most common types of infections found contracted by elderly.

Bacterial skin infections

Bacterial skin infections often start small. They usually manifest as small bumps on the skin in the beginning, then proceed to grow in size and intensity. Some bacterial infections are mild and can be treated easily using topical antibiotic ointments, while some are more stubborn and might need oral antibiotics. Some examples of bacterial skin infections are:

1. Leprosy

Leprosy is a progressive and chronic bacterial skin infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae.it primarily affects the nerves of the extremities, the skin, nasal lining, and the upper respiratory tract. Leprosy is also called Hansen’s disease.

The symptoms of leprosy include:

  • Skin ulcers
  • Nerve damage
  • Weakness in muscles.

If not treated early, it could cause severe disfigurement and crippling disability. Often a person with untreated leprosy may lose their nose cartilage or fingers. The earliest signs of leprosy are the development of lesions on the skin that don’t heal, numbness in hands, arms, feet and legs and muscle fatigue. Leprosy is not highly contagious. However, spending long periods of time with a person having untreated leprosy can lead to contracting leprosy.

2. Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a common bacterial skin infection.it might be painful sometimes.it appears as a red, swollen area that is warm and tender to the touch. The redness and swelling can spread quickly. Cellulitis is a serious condition and it needs immediate medical attention. It usually appears on the skin of the lower legs, though it can affect any other part of the body or face. Cellulitis appears on your skin though it can affect tissues and lymph nodes. If not treated in time, the infection can spread to the bloodstream too and prove life-threatening.

Symptoms of cellulitis include:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Red and inflamed skin
  • Rash that develops quickly
  • Tight, glossy, swollen skin
  • Warm skin
  • Fever
  • Abscess filled with pus
  • Chills
  • Shivering
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle pain
  • Sweating

The following symptoms show if cellulitis spreads:

  • Drowsiness
  • Lethargy
  • Red Streaks
  • Blisters

Also Read: 7 Tips to Prevent Dry Skin As You Age

Fungal skin infections

These are caused by a fungus. They appear in places where the skin tends to be damp, like the feet, groin, between the fingers and armpit. Usually, fungal infections are not life-threatening. They may be contagious in some cases. Some examples of fungal skin infections are:

Also Read: 5 Types of fungal infections common in elderly

1. Tinea Pedis

Tinea Pedis, also known as Athlete’s Foot, is a contagious fungal skin infection. It affects the skin on the feet. It can also appear on toenails and hands. Athlete’s foot is not harmful, but it is hard to cure. It usually affects older adults with reduced immunity or diabetes. If you suspect you have Tinea Pedis, you should consult your doctor immediately.

Symptoms of athlete’s foot are:

  • Itching or burning on the soles of feet or between your toes
  • Blisters on your feet
  • Cracking and peeling skin
  • Dry skin on soles
  • Raw skin
  • Discolored, thick or friable toenails

2. Candidiasis

Candidiasis is the most common type of fungal infection. It happens due to a fungus called yeast. Yeast is naturally present on your skin. But reduced immunity, generally in older adults, causes yeast to multiply rapidly and cause infection. Candidiasis can usually found on the web space between fingers and toes, under folds of skin, groin and the vaginal area in women. In general, candidiasis affects women more than men. Oral thrush, vaginal yeast infection, cutaneous candidiasis are some types of candidiasis infections.

Most candidiasis infections have symptoms like:

  • Raw skin
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Rash with boils or blisters
  • Pain
  • Itching
  • Peeling skin

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