Inflammation of hair follicles is known as folliculitis. Infection can cause such skin condition forming small raised red colored bumps around the hair follicles. It can form anywhere in the skin and folliculitis can occur on all age groups ranging from children to elderly people. There are tiny pockets at the point where the hair grow and when these pockets are clogged with debris it can cause swelling of skin. Often it happens due to bacterial or fungal infection.
Folliculitis is not any serious skin problem and it does not cause any harm to the affected person. It can cause sores on the skin which can be itchy and embarrassing. Largely, folliculitis occurs on the face, chest, scalp, and buttocks. Often no treatment is required for folliculitis and it is enough if you follow basic hygiene of your body and skin. In severe cases antibacterial ointments can be applied to treat the sores and itchy bumps.
Folliculitis Symptoms :
Hair follicles on the skin get clogged with pus like substance leading to inflammation of the skin. Folliculitis can cause red raised bumps or pimples on the skin. It can be itchy and sometimes cause burning sensation. For some people the bumps can be painful. In rare cases sores get grouped together forming large swollen mass on the skin.
Folliculitis Types :
Basically there are 2 types of folliculitis.
Superficial folliculitis is one that affects the upper layer of the skin. It can occur due to bacterial infection that causes itchy white or red bumps. Often painful sores forming on the beard area is this type of folliculitis which is also known as barber’s itch. It can be caused by Staph bacteria which can enter the body through a small cut or wound on the skin.
Pseudomonas bacteria can also cause folliculitis and this often occurs when you are using public pools. Hot tubs and pools in public places are not maintained properly and sometimes the pH level of chlorine is not balanced. When a person bathes in this water he may get red itchy bumps on the skin. For some people pseudofolliculitis occur due to in-grown hairs on the skin. Black men are at increased risk for this kind of folliculitis and is more visible on their face and neck region. Yeast infection like pityrosporum can also cause red itchy bumps on the chest and back region.
- Deep Folliculitis
In contrast to superficial type, this kind of folliculitis affects the entire hair follicle. Teens and young adults who have just begun shaving can develop deep folliculitis. Small red colored lesions can be seen above the upper lip region and on the chin. This can get severe as they continue to shave this area leading to scarring of skin.
Gram negative bacteria can cause folliculitis when people are taking antibiotics for long period. This medication can cause overgrowth of negative bacteria leading to formation of painful sores on the skin. Small pimples and bumps can occur on the nose region and the skin gets to normal when the person stops taking antibiotics. Nose acne belongs to this category of folliculitis.
Boils can occur on the skin when the hair follicles get deeply infected. It can be seen as red or pink colored lesions on the face, back of the neck and on shoulders. Carbuncles are nothing but cluster of lesions or boils. It takes longer time for healing than normal bumps.
Eosinophilic folliculitis largely occurs on people with immune problem and those who have developed HIV type diseases. This can cause red patches on the face and neck and even on the chest due to inflammation of hair follicles. Acne vulgaris and rashes that develop on teens belong to this category of folliculitis.
Folliculitis Causes :
Folliculitis is caused by bacteria or fungal infection largely. For some people wearing of tight clothing and extreme heat conditions can trigger folliculitis. Skin problems like acne and dermatitis and skin injury like wounds and scrapes can also cause painful red sores. Bumps or lesions develop on the skin when there is no gap for air passage through the hair follicles and people who are often using rubber gloves can also develop folliculitis.
Folliculitis can occur anywhere on the skin, but it largely develops on the face, chin, neck (back and front), and chest and on your back and buttocks. The regions like eyes, mouth and palms do not contain hair follicles and hence such places are not affected.
Who Are At Risk ?
Folliculitis can occur to anyone, irrespective of age and sex. But the risk is high if you are diabetic or having immune-compromised disease or obese, or with frequent skin infections like acne/dermatitis or recently undergone any skin surgery. People who are using antibiotics for long term and those who are using rubber gloves regularly and those who are using public pools and hot tubs daily are at increased risk. Inflammation of hair follicles can spread to nearby regions and in severe cases can form boils. In serious cases it can lead to scarring of skin or permanent damage to the skin layer.
Doctor can identify folliculits on mere physical examination of the affected skin. Sometimes, he may order for skin culture when infected hair is pulled out of the skin and examined under a microscope. In rare cases skin biopsy is done to detect the type of bacteria or fungi causing an infection.
Folliculitis Treatment :
- Often no treatment is needed for mild folliculitis since it clears on its own. Over the counter antibiotic creams like mupirocin can be helpful in getting rid of raised lesions on the skin.
- In most of the cases applying topical creams can bring remedy from symptoms. In severe cases your doctor may consider prescribing oral antibiotics. Antifungal medications are given for treating fungal infections like pityrosporum folliculitis.
- People with HIV/AIDS are given steroid therapy or antiretroviral therapy.
- Surgery is the last option for treating folliculitis. Minor corrective surgery is done for removing carbuncle wherein the surgeon makes a small incision for draining out the pus inside. This can be useful in preventing scarring of skin and promotes easy healing.
- Light therapy can be done using photodynamic lighting and this option is recommended for severe type that does not respond to any other method of treatment.
- At present, laser therapy is also used to clear the infected area of the skin.
Folliculitis Home Remedies :
For managing discomfort caused by mild sores on the skin you can apply warm compress on the affected area. Dip soft clothing on warm saltwater solution and place it directly on the infected skin. You can repeat this simple remedy many times a day. Alternatively you can use hydrocortisone cream on the affected skin to get quick result.
Tips To Prevent :
- Do your shaving carefully avoiding cuts and if possible use electric razor for shaving. Use clean blade each time you shave to prevent cuts or wounds.
- For men who love beard clean it frequently to prevent accumulation of debris.
- If your work involves using rubber gloves regularly use dry ones and once in a while you can remove them for maintaining proper moisture on your hands.
- For teens that are new to shaving you can use shave gels on the skin few minutes before shaving that can keep your skin soft. Use moisturizing cream every time after shaving.
- Use only properly cleaned pool or hot tubs to prevent contagious folliculitis.