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Erythrasma

Definition

Erythrasma is a long-term skin infection caused by bacteria. It commonly occurs in skin folds. 

Causes

Erythrasma is caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium minutissimum.

Erythrasma is more common in warm climates. You are more likely to develop this condition if you are overweight or have diabetes.

Symptoms

The main symptoms are reddish-brown slightly scaly patches with sharp borders. They may itch slightly. The patches occur in moist areas such as the groin, armpit, and skin folds.

The patches often look similar to other fungal infections, such as ringworm.

Exams and Tests

These tests can help diagnose erythrasma:

  • Lab tests of scrapings from the skin patch
  • Examination under a special lamp called a Wood's lamp

Treatment

Gently scrubbing the skin patches with antibacterial soap may help them go away. Your health care provider may prescribe erythromycin gel to put on your skin. If the condition is very bad, you may need to take this medicine in pill form. 

Outlook (Prognosis)

The condition should go away after treatment. 

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of erythrasma.

Prevention

You may be able to reduce the risk of erythrasma if you:

  • Bathe or shower often
  • Keep your skin dry
  • Wear clean clothes that absorb moisture
  • Avoid very hot or damp conditions
  • Maintain a healthy body weight

References

Habif TP. Superficial and fungal infections. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 13.

Millett CR, Hapern AV, Reboli AC, et al. Bacterial Diseases. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, et al, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 74.


Review Date: 11/20/2014
Reviewed By: Richard J. Moskowitz, MD, dermatologist in private practice, Mineola, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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