What Is Erythrasma?

Medically reviewed by Suzanne Falck, MD on September 29, 2017Written by Lana Bandoim

Overview

Erythrasma is a bacterial infection that affects the skin. It usually appears in the folds of the skin. It’s more commonly seen in warm or humid climates, and is usually caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium minutissimum. Erythrasma tends to be a chronic or long-term skin condition.

Read on to learn more about this condition.

What are the symptoms of erythrasma?

The most common symptoms of erythrasma include pink, red, or brown skin patches with scales, and mildly itchy skin. Sometimes the skin may also be wrinkled. The patches can vary in size, and usually start as a pink or red color. Then, they become brown and scaly.

The patches typically appear in the folds of the skin and are more common in the groin area, armpits, or between the toes. When you have erythrasma between the toes, you may see fissures and scaly skin. Erythrasma can also appear in the skin folds under the breasts, between the buttocks, or around the navel.

Pictures of erythrasma

What causes erythrasma?

Erythrasma is caused by the Corynebacterium minutissimum bacteria. The bacteria normally live on the skin and can grow in warm, moist areas. That’s why it’s commonly found in folds of the skin.

What are the risk factors of erythrasma?

You’re more likely to develop erythrasma if you:

  • have diabetes
  • live in a warm or humid climate
  • sweat a lot
  • are obese
  • are older
  • have poor hygiene
  • have a medical condition that affects the immune system

Erythrasma is more common in hot and humid climates. It’s mostly seen in tropical and subtropical areas. It can affect people at any age, but it’s more common among older adults.

How is erythrasma diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and do a physical exam to start the diagnosis process. Then, your doctor will do a Wood’s lamp skin examination. This lamp uses ultraviolet radiation to look at your skin. Under this lamp, erythrasma will have a red or coral color.

Your doctor may take a swab or skin scraping to examine the cultures more closely under a microscope.

How is erythrasma treated?

Treatment will depend on the severity of your condition. Your doctor may recommend any of the following treatments:

  • oral antibiotics, such as erythromycin (Erythrocin Stearate)
  • cleaning the affected area with antibiotic soap
  • applying fusidic acid to the skin
  • antibacterial solutions or creams on your skin, such as clindamycin HCL solution, erythromycin cream, or miconazole cream (Lotrimin, Cruex)
  • red light therapy

Treatment may take two to four weeks to work. You may need to try a combination of treatments.

Topical creams and solutions are usually used first. Oral antibiotics are added if the first treatments don’t work. Sometimes a combination of oral and topical treatments is necessary. In some cases, treating the underlying disease, like diabetes, can also help.

What are the complications of erythrasma?

Complications are rare with erythrasma. In rare cases, erythrasma can become more serious. Septicemia, a serious blood infection, may develop.

How is erythrasma prevented?

There are several things you may be able to do to prevent erythrasma:

  • Keep your skin dry and clean.
  • Make sure you dry your skin completely after bathing.
  • Avoid excessive sweating, if possible.
  • Make sure your shoes are dry before wearing them.
  • Wear clean, dry clothes.
  • Try to avoid hot or humid areas.
  • Treat underlying medical conditions, like diabetes.
  • Use antibacterial soap to prevent recurrence.

What’s the outlook?

Erythrasma can be treated. Most people respond to treatment within two to four weeks. However, it’s possible for erythrasma to become chronic and return. This is more likely to happen if you have a medical condition that affects your immune system.

In general, erythrasma is a mild condition. It shouldn’t interfere with your ability to do normal activities.

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