What Is Intertrigo?
Intertrigo is an inflammatory skin condition caused by skin-on-skin friction, usually occurring in warm, moist areas of the body, including the groin, between folds of skin on the stomach or abdomen, under the breasts, under the arms, or between the toes. Intertriginous zones are areas of skin that touch each other. In individuals with obesity, skin folds may occur in a number of additional body areas, which may all be affected by intertrigo. As a result, the affected skin features a red or pink skin rash, or dermatitis, which may be sensitive or painful. Severe cases of intertrigo can result in skin infection, oozing sores, cracked skin, and bleeding, among other severe symptoms. Other conditions resembling intertrigo include inverse psoriasis, staphylococcal or streptococcal impetigo, familial pemphigus, hidradenitis suppurativa (acne inversa), and seborrheic dermatitis. Though the rash can be itchy or painful, it is not contagious, and bacteria, fungus, and yeast can easily grow in affected areas and worsen the rash.
Symptoms Of Intertrigo
This condition starts with reddened skin, small bumps, or spots in skin folds, creating an intertrigo rash. The rash may feel itchy, uncomfortable, burning, prickly, and painful. The most common areas the rash occurs include between the toes, in the armpits, in the groin area, in the thigh areas, on the underside of the belly or breasts, behind the knees, in front of the elbows, in the crease of the neck, and the skin between the buttocks. Intertrigo usually appears on both sides of the skin fold, similar to a mirror image of the other side. If the rash is not infected, it is often symmetrical. Examples of symmetry include intertrigo appearing under both arms or the folds of both breasts.
Due to the persistent friction, heat, and moisture produced in these areas, the affected areas can quickly become inflamed and raw, causing the skin to crack, bleed, ooze, and crust over. The skin surrounding the rash may become hardened and scaly. Should a secondary infection develop from bacteria, fungus, or yeast, a foul intertrigo smell may develop, and the area may become more inflamed and painful. Secondary infections with intertrigo usually present in an asymmetrical form. You may develop intertrigo in more than one area of the body. Small skin folds, such as those located behind the ears, around the chin, or between the eyelids, can be affected. Symptoms of intertrigo can worsen if the affected area comes into contact with bodily secretions, such as sweat, urine, natural oils, or feces.
The primary cause of intertrigo is irritation caused by skin rubbing against skin. This friction commonly occurs between skin folds, creating a warm, moist environment that lacks exposure to air. This environment then invites an overgrowth of yeast, fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms to accumulate in the affected area. Anyone can get intertrigo, but the following factors and conditions can increase your risk of developing this skin condition. Infants have a high risk of developing intertrigo because their skin is highly sensitive. Babies and young children also tend to have skin rubbing against other skin, such as in folds of the neck. Babies also often have damp skin from drooling and diapers, increasing their likelihood of developing intertrigo. In some cases, intertrigo occurs as a side effect of chemotherapy treatment.
Weakened Immune System
Poor Hygiene Habits
- Excessive Sweating (Hyperhidrosis)
- Tight Clothing Or Shoes
- Environments With High Heat & Humidity
- Wearing A Splint, Brace, Or Artificial Limb
Candidal intertrigo is a secondary intertrigo infection. Candida (a yeast) is the fungus most commonly associated with this condition. Also called Candida albicans, Thrush is the major cause of all skin-related yeast infections. Most individuals have some amount of Candida albicans present on their skin, but the present yeast can multiply and spread, taking advantage of skin folds and other similar areas on the body. A Candida rash is typically itchy and appears bright red and raw.
Bacterial intertrigo is a secondary intertrigo infection occurring when bacterial microorganisms affect areas of the body with intertrigo. Bacteria associated with intertrigo include Staphylococcus aureus, Proteus mirabilis, Proteus vulgaris, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and group A beta-hemolytic streptococci.
Viruses may also affect the area of the body with intertrigo, causing a secondary infection. The most common viruses associated with intertrigo include Poxviridae, Papillomaviridae, Picornaviridae, Retroviridae, Herpesviridae, Togaviridae, and Parvoviridae. Contact us for more information about secondary infections.
Treatment is typically straightforward when intertrigo is inflammatory only, mild, and no infection is present. Your Boardman dermatologist will likely tell you to keep the affected area clean, dry, and exposed to air. Your doctor may also prescribe a topical steroid medication and advise you to follow a number of at-home care instructions. They also may recommend you apply an intertrigo treatment cream, such as zinc oxide ointment, petroleum jelly, talcum powder, or aluminum sulfate, to the affected area.
In cases of infected intertrigo or intertrigo in which a secondary infection is present, your doctor may also prescribe additional topical medications. Specific treatment for intertrigo will depend on the cause and the type of infection present. In extreme cases, some individuals undergo breast reduction surgery or gynecomastia surgery to reduce chronic intertrigo. Fungal intertrigo treatments may include topical antifungal medications, a low-dose corticosteroid, or a system antifungal oral medication. Bacterial intertrigo treatments may include topical antibiotics, oral antibiotics, and a low-potency corticosteroid.
Intertrigo Home Treatment
The prognosis is quite good for patients willing to alter certain habits that may predispose them to intertrigo. If you are predisposed to getting intertrigo, then you should take precautions and follow these intertrigo home remedies. It is possible to prevent simple intertrigo by applying a lubricating ointment directly into intertriginous skin folds predisposed to irritation, especially before engaging in any type of physical activity. Carefully drying the affected area following bathing, showering or swimming is likewise helpful. In those with obesity and large abdominal skin folds, weight reduction, healthy nutrition, and possible excision surgery may diminish the folds, helping to prevent intertrigo.
- Keep your skin clean and dry. Pat yourself dry whenever you exercise, shower, or bathe. Avoid rubbing your skin. Use products targeted to mitigate the possibility of moisture and infection occurring on the skin, particularly within skin folds.
- Manage your sweat. Certain bodily fluids, such as perspiration, can cause the intertrigo to develop and worsen the condition, potentially leading to an infection. Manage your sweat production by keeping your skin dry. Use a mild antiperspirant to minimize sweating in your skin folds.
- Use antifungal products. For those with fungal infections and intertrigo, try using an antifungal cleanser as soap on the affected area. Consult your doctor for product recommendations.
- Wear loose clothing. Tight, non-breathable fabrics and clothing can cause intertrigo. Wear loose clothing made from cotton and avoid synthetic fabrics and materials.
- Create a physical barrier. Depending on the location of the intertrigo, you may benefit from creating a physical barrier around the affected area. Try using a thin cotton or gauze covering or barrier to separate your skin folds.