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A Common Skin Infection for HIV+ People


Updated May 27, 2014

Foliculitis - leg

Folliculitis of the leg

For a teenager, acne, pimples, or "zits" are part of growing up. But as adults, we put away the skin cleansers, putting the annoyances of acne behind us. But there is a condition that can rear its ugly head, especially for people living with HIV. Folliculitis is an skin infection that is reminisent of our teenage years. What is folliculitis and what do we about it?

What is Folliculitis?

Folliculitis is an inflammation or infection of hair follicles. Folliculitis can occur anywhere there is body hair, but most often it appears in areas that are irritated from shaving, rubbing clothes, or pores blocked by oils and dirt. The most common sites of folliculitis include:
  • the face
  • the scalp
  • under the arms
  • on the legs
  • the chest and back.

What Causes Folliculitis?

Typically, folliculitis occurs when hair follicles become irritated and damaged from shaving or rubbing clothes. Pores can become clogged with oils and dirt as well. These irriated and clogged pores form perfect breading grounds for bacteria or fungus. As the pores and follicles collect bacteria and fungus, they become infected and folliculitis as occurred.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Folliculitis?

The appearance of folliculitis can vary from person to person but usually the symptoms include:
  • a reddened rash
  • raised pus filled lesions (pimples)
  • crusted lesions that have opened and drained pus
  • itching at the site of the lesions

How is Folliculitis Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of folliculitis is generally made by examining the appearance of the skin and the lesions present. On occasion, a skin biopsy will be done, not to diagnosis the folliculitis but to rule out other types of skin lesions. A culture of the lesion may show which bacteria or fungus has caused the infection.

What is the Treatment for Folliculitis?

The best way to treat folliculitis is to avoid it from occurring in the first place. This can be done by minimizing damage to the hair follicles by:
  • avoiding clothing that will rub against the skin
  • shaving with an electric razor as opposed to a blade razor
  • keeping the skin clean using soap, water and skin cleansers

If folliculitis does occur, treatment depends on what is causing the infection and how severe it is.

  • Bacteria - antibiotic ointments
  • Fungal - antifungal creams
  • Severe Cases - oral antibiotics
  • Scalp - antibiotic shampoo

With the proper diagnosis and treatment, folliculitis responds very well to therapies. Unfortunately, it can recur. If, despite your best efforts, folliculitis occurs, talk to your doctor about which treatment is right for you.

  1. About.com
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  4. HIV-Associated Illnesses
  5. Opportunistic Infections
  6. Folliculitis - Description, Symptoms, Treatment

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