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Alternative Names
bacterial ulcer

Ecthyma is a bacterial skin infection caused by streptococcal or staphylococcal organisms.

What is going on in the body?
Streptococcal and staphylococcal bacteria may cause skin infections at various levels and depths. Ecthyma is similar to impetigo, but causes deeper erosions of the skin. The infection may start at the site of an insect bite or scratch.

What are the signs and symptoms of the infection?
Ecthyma begins as a small blister that may be pus-filled and have a reddish border. A crusted ulcer follows the appearance of the blister.

What are the causes and risks of the infection?
The streptococcal organism most often causes ecthyma. Any trauma or break in the skin allows the bacteria to begin growing.

What can be done to prevent the infection?
Any injury or bite should be thoroughly cleansed. A person should avoid scratching any bites.

How is the infection diagnosed?
The doctor is usually able to diagnose ecthyma after a complete history and physical examination. A culture may be done of the lesion.

What are the long-term effects of the infection?
Long-term effects of ecthyma include spread of infection to other parts of the body and permanent skin damage with scarring.

What are the risks to others?
Because ecthyma is a bacterial disease, it can be contagious to other people who come into physical contact with the infected person.

What are the treatments for the infection?
Antibiotics may be prescribed for ecthyma. Warm soaks are helpful to remove crusts from the lesions. Antiseptic soap or peroxide washes may help reduce the infection.

What are the side effects of the treatments?
Side effects of antibiotics include stomach upset and allergic reactions.

What happens after treatment for the infection?
Most people with ecthyma make a full recovery after treatment.

How is the infection monitored?
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor.

Author: Lynn West, MD
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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