Impetigo is an ugly skin infection, consisting of open lesions that are reddish at the base and-or honey-colored on top.(1) These lesions are usually grouped together in spots.
The two main forms of bacteria that lead to impetigo are hemolytic streptococcus and straphylococcus aurus. An infection occurs when one of these types of bacteria gets into an open wound or cut. Once a person develops impetigo, it is extremely contagious, easily passed from one family member or loved one to another.
There are also two main varieties of impetigo.(2) The bullous form features blisters that break open, leaving behind red, raw skin with a ragged edge, while the non-bullous form of the infection produces scabs and smaller blisters that turn into a crusty, honey-colored mess. This latter variety often breaks out around the face or nose area.
For mild cases, antibiotics such as penicillin, cephalexin, and amoxicillin may not be needed. A simple, regular scrubbing of the infected area(s) with anti-bacterial soap may suffice.
About 70% of recorded cases are of the non-bullous variety.(3) In most of these cases, the skin has been traumatized somehow, through an outbreak of chickenpox, insect bites, abrasions, or even burns. The resulting weakened skin is then a prime setting for an outbreak of impetigo.
The non-bullous form of impetigo is mostly incurred by children and adolescents. In about 10% of all impetigo cases, cellulite is created. The topical application of antibiotic solutions is prescribed on average for a period of seven to 10 days. Patients may sometimes need to soften the lesions before applying the medication. Rarely does impetigo lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, scarlet fever, and AGN.
Impetigo is far more common in underdeveloped nations than it is in First World Countries, because of the relative lack of hygiene and higher incidence of causal diseases. Countries such as Ethiopia feature the sad sight of young orphans riddled with outbreaks of the skin lesions.(4)
(1) Ohio State University Medical Center – Impetigo, Retrieved June 15, 2011 from http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/patientcare/healthcare_services/pediatrics/common_childhood_illness/skin_conditions/impetigo/Pages/index.aspx
(2) Central Connecticut State University – Impetigo, Retrieved June 15, 2011 from http://www.biology.ccsu.edu/doan/RSGAStrept/rsimpetigo.html
(3) University of Chicago – Impetigo, Retrieved June 15, 2011 from http://pedclerk.bsd.uchicago.edu/impetigo.html
(4) Huffington Post – Journal from the Field #1, May 26, 2011, Retrieved June 15, 2011 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jane-aronson/what-does-a-bar-mitzvah-h_b_867621.html