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Folliculitis – Pictures, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Updated on February 11, 2014

Folliculitis is a type of skin infection which affects the hair follicles. It may be noted that every single hair grows out from a tiny pouch on the skin called a follicle. As hair is present all over the body, folliculitis can affect any part of the body. It is however most prevalent on the scalp and face, as well as on other body regions which experience friction from apparels, like the groin and the thighs.

Symptoms of folliculitis

Some of the signs and symptoms of folliculitis are listed below:

  • Folliculitis typically develops as reddish pimples or lumps on the skin. Each of these pimples have a hair in its center.
  • The pimples may consist of pus. They may cause burning sensations or itchiness.
  • After the pimples rupture, there may be discharge of pus or blood, or a mixture of both blood and pus.

‘Hot tub folliculitis’ is a type of folliculitis which generally occurs about 72 hours after a person has spent some time at a spa or a hot tub. The stomach area may develop a lot of tiny pimples. Occasionally, they may form on the legs and arms. Affected individuals may suffer from an upset stomach and malaise or mild fever. In most instances, this form of folliculitis disappears on its own within a week to ten days.

Causes of Folliculitis

Folliculitis is generally caused due to a bacterial infection. Sometimes, it may be caused by a yeast infection or some other kind of fungal infection.

People with damaged hair follicles are more susceptible to developing folliculitis. Shaving as well as wearing constricted or tight clothing that rubs against the skin can irritate the hair follicles, eventually causing folliculitis. The follicles can also get irritated or clogged with machine oils, sweat, or makeup. Any kind of injury to hair follicles increases its risk to developing infections.

The below listed factors can increase the risk to developing folliculitis:

  • Wearing close-fitting apparels
  • Using a whirlpool, hot tub, or swimming pool that has not been properly and thoroughly treated with chlorine.
  • Presence of underlying conditions like HIV or diabetes which impairs or weakens the immune system.
  • Working with or using substances that clog or irritate the hair follicles. For instance, cocoa butter, makeup, tar, motor oil, and creosote.
  • Prolonged use of steroid creams or antibiotics
  • Presence of an infected scrape, cut, injury, or surgical wound. In such cases, the fungi or bacteria may migrate to surrounding follicles.

Diagnosis of Folliculitis

Folliculitis can be easily diagnosed by a doctor via a physical examination of the infected follicles. The doctor may also inquire about the patient’s daily activities and his/her general health.

  • The doctor may order for additional tests so as to ensure and rule out the presence of other similar-appearing skin diseases like heat rash or impetigo.
  • A sample of the affected tissue or a sample of the pimple fluids is usually taken and checked in a lab to verify the cause of the infection.

Treatment of Folliculitis

It is important for folliculitis patients to seek medical attention if:

  • The infection keeps reoccurring or spreads to other areas.
  • The affected region experiences swelling, redness, warmth, or excessive pain.
  • Presence of a fever above 38 degree C/ 101 degree F.

Minor cases of folliculitis typically go away on their own in about 14 days. Patients can follow the below listed self-care guidelines to alleviate the symptoms and hasten recovery:

  • Use medicated shampoo to treat folliculitis affecting the beard or the scalp.
  • Use Burow’s solution or white vinegar and make warm compresses. It can be used to get relief from itchiness and to aid the healing process.

Doctors may prescribe an antifungal cream or topical antibiotics if the infection does not disappear. Patients with severe infections may be given oral antibiotics or antifungals.

When folliculitis keeps recurring or does not heal, then patients can go for laser hair removal. The hair follicles are destroyed via laser treatment and thus cannot get infected in the future.

Is Folliculitis Contagious?

Yes, it is contagious and can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, hot tubs, Jacuzzis and razors that are shared. It has been observed that people are prone to developing this skin condition due to their overall health condition, immunity, factors of exposure and predisposing skin problems like dry skin and eczema.

Prevention of Folliculitis

Patients may follow the below listed steps to prevent folliculitis or to stop it from migrating to other areas:

  • Do not scratch the infected pimples or bumps
  • Use a mild antibacterial soap to shower or bathe on a daily basis. It is also important to take a shower or a bath after working with chemicals, or after exercising.
  • Do not use oils on the skin as it entraps germs in the skin pores and increases the threat to folliculitis development.
  • Do not share personal items like washcloths, towels, etc. Patients need to use a fresh towel and washcloth after every shower or bath.
  • It is important to immediately take a shower with an antibacterial soap, after using spas or a public hot tub. People with their own bath tubs need to ensure that it is kept clean.
  • Do not shave the folliculitis bumps. If shaving cannot be avoided, then a new razor blade has to be used each time. Consult a doctor before using depilatory lotions and creams. These products remove hair without the need to shave.

Folliculitis Pictures


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