Folliculitis – What is it and What Causes it?

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Pityrosporum folliculitis

Folliculitis describes any condition where an infection (or other factor) causes inflammation of the hair follicles. Infectious organisms can include viruses, fungi, yeast and bacteria, with Staphylococcus aureus the most common cause of folliculitis.

What is Folliculitis?

Types of Folliculitis

Eosinophilic folliculitis is a type of folliculitis that mainly affects people with HIV/AIDS and which is thought to involve the same yeast-like fungus that causes pityrosporum folliculitis (common in teenagers and men). Symptoms of eosonophilic folliculitis also include itchy, red, inflamed pustules on the upper chest as well as on the scalp, face, and neck. These pustules are usually recurring, are typically intensely itchy and often spread to other areas of skin. As the sores heal, they often cause hyperpigmentation in the skin.

Gram-negative folliculitis

Gram-negative folliculitis is a specific subtype of acne that may arise as a result of long-term antibiotic treatment. Like other types of folliculitis, it is caused by an infection of the follicles, although in this case that infection involves gram-negative organisms.

This skin condition may also arise as a complication of acne vulgaris and rosacea, as well as after immersion in a hot-tub, and in cases of HIV infection.

Other causes of folliculitis

Some cases of folliculitis occur due to ingrown hairs, often in areas that are frequently shaved. The scalp has the highest density of hair follicles on the body, while the palms, lips, soles of the feet and mucous membranes have no hair follicles. Depending on the degree to which hair follicles are affected by folliculitis, the condition is usually graded as superficial or deep.

Hair follicles that have been damaged are more prone to folliculitis, and anyone suffering from this condition would be wise to look at protecting the follicles where possible. Common risk factors for folliculitis include:

  • Dermatitis, acne and other skin conditions
  • Shaving
  • The use of steroid creams or long-term antibiotic treatment
  • Wearing tight clothing that traps heat and sweat
  • The use of plastic dressings, tape or other skin covering
  • Wearing rubber gloves, waders, high boots
  • Scratches, scrapes, surgery and other skin injuries
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes, leukemia and HIV/AIDS that increase infection risk
  • Being overweight
  • Soaking in a poorly maintained hot tub

Read on to learn how folliculitis is diagnosed.

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