Folliculitis occurs when hair follicles become infected, often with Staphylococcus aureus or other bacteria. Certain variations of folliculitis are also known as hot tub folliculitis and barber's itch. Severe infections can cause permanent hair loss and scarring, and even mild folliculitis can be uncomfortable and embarrassing.
The infection usually appears as small, white-headed pimples around one or more hair follicles — the tiny pockets from which each hair grows. Most cases of folliculitis are superficial, and they may itch, but on occasion they're painful too. Superficial folliculitis often clears by itself in a few days, but deep or recurring folliculitis may need medical treatment.
When hair follicles are damaged, they may be invaded by viruses, bacteria and fungi, leading to infections such as folliculitis. Superficial folliculitis affects the upper part of the hair follicle ...
Folliculitis signs and symptoms vary, depending on the type of infection.
Superficial folliculitis, which affects the upper part of the hair follicle, may cause:
Deep folliculitis starts deeper in the skin surrounding the hair follicle and affects the entire hair follicle. Signs and symptoms include:
Types of superficial folliculitis
Types of deep folliculitis
When to see a doctor
Hot tub folliculitis
Hot tub folliculitis causes red, round, itchy bumps that may later develop into small pus-filled blisters. The rash is likely to be worse in areas where your swimsuit holds contaminated water against ...
Pseudofolliculitis barbae affects men with curly beards. It develops when shaved hairs curve back into the skin, leading to inflammation. ...
A carbuncle is a cluster of boils — painful, pus-filled bumps — that form a connected area of infection under the skin. ...
Folliculitis is caused by an infection of the hair follicles by bacteria, viruses or fungi. The most common cause of folliculitis is Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
Follicles are densest on your scalp, but they occur everywhere on your body except your palms, soles and mucous membranes, such as your lips. If follicles become damaged, they become susceptible to invasion.
The most common causes of follicle damage include:
Anyone can develop folliculitis, but certain factors make you more susceptible to the condition. These include:
Mild cases of folliculitis aren't likely to cause complications. If complications do occur with mild infections, they may include:
Severe folliculitis may include:
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, you may then be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders (dermatologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to arrive well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time with your doctor. For folliculitis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor is likely to diagnose folliculitis simply by looking at your skin. When standard treatments fail to clear the infection, your doctor may send a sample taken from one of your pustules to a laboratory, where it's grown on a special medium (cultured) and then checked for the presence of bacteria. When doctors suspect eosinophilic folliculitis, they may remove a small tissue sample (biopsy) from an active lesion for testing.
Treatments and drugs
Mild cases of folliculitis will likely go away on their own. Persistent or recurring cases are likely to require treatment, however. The therapy your doctor recommends will depend on the type and severity of your infection.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Mild cases of folliculitis often respond well to home care. The following suggestions may help relieve discomfort, speed healing and prevent the infection from spreading:
A wet compress made with white vinegar may help ease your folliculitis symptoms.
Although it's not always possible to prevent folliculitis, these measures may help:
Last Updated: 2011-10-06
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