Intertrigo: the remedies

Intertrigo has the characteristics of a dermatitis: redness, itching and in some cases pain. After a correct diagnosis, this is how the treatment takes place.

It has the characteristics of a dermatitis: redness, itching and in some cases pain. Intertrigo is one of the many pathologies that can affect our skin. After a correct diagnosis, this is how the treatment takes place.

What is intertrigo?

Intertrigo is a skin disease that involves in particular skin folds located in different areas of the body.

Its name derives from the Latin intertrigo (inter = between, terere = rub, trigo = rubbed). It is in fact a real inflammation dermatosis, very common and widespread, which occurs in the areas of greatest rubbing.

Its manifestations are quite varied, with different symptoms caused by different microganisms, such as yeasts, fungi or bacteria, which infiltrate between the folds of the skin.

Where is it located?

There are areas of the skin where continuous rubbing occurs, such as:

  • the lower part of the breast, where it touches the torso at the level of the ribs (submammary fold)
  • the groin and genital area
  • the axillary area
  • between the fingers, especially those of the feet and less frequently between those of the hands
  • at the level of the abdomen, for those suffering from obesity
  • the area between the buttocks
  • neck folds, in newborns
  • behind the ears.

Intertrigo: understanding the symptoms

The symptoms of this disorder can be confused with those of other diseases, especially infectious conditions or autoimmune diseases.

Knowing how to recognize them and make the correct diagnosis is not always immediate. If in doubt, always consult your doctor.

Intertrigo is manifested by:

  • reddening
  • presence of peeling and lesions of the skin, usually symmetrical in shape
  • inflammation
  • itch
  • pain
  • hypersensitivity in damaged skin areas
  • presence of unpleasant odor.

Not all symptoms may be present at the same time.

If not treated properly, this condition can evolve and cause worsening, with the appearance of cracks, deep lesions, fissures and bleeding.

What factors favor intertrigo?

There are several factors that can provoke the onset of this disease. In particular, the risk increases in the event of:

  • obesity
  • small neck, in the case of newborns, with the presence of relative folds of skin and a posture flexed forward; The abundance of salivation can also contribute to developing disorders such as intertrigo.
  • use of tight shoes, which force the thumb to a reduced distance from the other toes or the presence of an ingrown nail not properly cared for
  • urinary or intestinal incontinence
  • hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)
  • dyshidrosis
  • diabetes
  • poor hygiene and/or malnutrition.

All these factors favor the rubbing of skin against skin, in areas where perspiration is reduced or there is excessive activity of the sweat glands; The sweat produced by these glands helps to create a skin microenvironment that favors the maceration of the skin. This reduces the function of the skin barrier and therefore increases the risk of developing infections.

Most common during the summer

All situations where you sweat are at risk. Sports activities are therefore included, especially in gyms or swimming pools. In these environments, in fact, conditions are easily created that favor greater circulation of pathogens, including:

  • the presence of many people in common areas
  • excessive humidity (think, for example, of swimming pools or common showers in changing rooms),
  • hygienic conditions often not optimal
  • the use of common tools.

In addition, exercises often favor repeated rubbing of specific areas of the body, thus causing irritation and the entry of bacteria or other microorganisms. The result is not only intertrigo, but opens the way to a whole series of skin infections, including for example warts, nightmare of all pool goers.

It is therefore not only infections that are transmitted through the airways, the most common in places like these.

Obviously, then, sweat is synonymous with hot seasons; It is during this time of year, in fact, that intertrigo occurs with greater frequency.

At each intertrigo its infection

The area affected by the rubbing of skin folds is fertile ground for the proliferation of pathogens, which can then cause an infection.

Let’s see in detail what are the main types of bacteria or fungi.

Type of infection Pathogen
Bacterial infection Staphylococcus aureus, group A beta-hemolytic staphylococcus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and several gram negative bacteria that can proliferate simultaneously
Fungal infection or mycosis Candida albicans is the most common in intertrigo. At the level of the big toe, gram-negative bacteria can also be associated

However, not all forms of intertrigo are necessarily caused by microbial infections. There are also types of this disorder that are not infectious, but that originate solely from inflammatory phenomena. This is what happens in the case of newborns, where pathologies of this type are widespread, especially in the area covered by the diaper.

Differential diagnosis

In dermatology, there are several pathologies with manifestations similar to that of intertrigo, such as atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, inverted psoriasis, herpes and some particular forms of acne.

Often, to make a correct diagnosis it can be useful to evaluate in detail the location of skin lesions.

For example, if the doctor suspects seborrheic dermatitis, it is useful to check for skin rash in the nails, hair or scalp, evaluating patients “from head to toe” during the visit.

In the vast majority of cases, the doctor then recommends performing a swab of the lesions, to analyze the bacterial species possibly involved. Identifying the pathogen responsible for the disorder, in fact, is essential to choose the correct therapy. This is almost never possible with the naked eye, even if there are agents, such as Candida albicans that cause lesions with a characteristic appearance and easily identifiable even during a simple visit.

What remedies for intertrigo?

Once the microorganism responsible for the disorder has been identified, the doctor may prescribe the correct therapy with antibiotics or antifungals. These are products that can be applied locally on damaged areas of the skin, or products taken orally, and therefore with systemic action.

In the case of very intense pain, anti-inflammatory drugs or painkillers can be used.

If the inflammation does not regress, a rather aggressive intervention, useful to prevent intertrigo from becoming chronic, could be the administration of corticosteroids.

In addition, contrary to what happens for other forms of dermatosis, in case of intertrigo botulinum is not used.

For particularly severe injuries or injuries that have left scars, cosmetic surgery may be useful, but only when the intertrigo has resolved.

Small tips for athletes

If you are a regular in swimming pools or gyms, here are some tips that could be useful to protect yourself from intertrigo, but also from other skin infections.

Never forget your personal towel, to spread on the tools before leaning down, or gloves to protect your hands. The same goes for the slippers for the pool or the showers: never do without them.

Choose breathable clothes, preferably cotton, avoiding synthetic fabrics.

If you are subject to redness of skin folds, you can use as a preventive treatment special soothing creams based on zinc oxide and magnesium silicate, useful to spread on the affected areas.

After exercise, take a quick shower. Being too much under water, although it may seem regenerating, subjects the skin to additional stress, after the abundant sweating. Use a light-foaming detergent, which makes rinsing quicker and dry thoroughly, paying particular attention to the toes and hands.

Finally, for those who are prone to redness, spread a veil of sulphur-salicylic cream in areas where the skin has taken on a rosacea hue, to prevent infections by bacteria and fungi.

What to do for tinea pedis

One of the typical manifestations of intertrigo is tinea pedis, a phenomenon characterized by desquamation, erythema and erosion of the skin between and under the toes.

Again, the main treatment consists in the application of antifungals or topical antibiotics (depending on the pathogen that caused the disorder). Relapses can be frequent, and often therapy is carried out for a rather prolonged period.

To protect yourself and prevent the recurrence of this condition, here are some tricks to reduce moisture at the level of the feet:

  • Use permeable shoes or shoes with bare toes
  • Change socks frequently, especially during the summer
  • Carefully dry the spaces between your fingers after a shower, bath or foot bath
  • you can use special adsorbing agents such as antifungal powders, for example miconazole, gentian violet, washing with Burow’s solution or a powder of aluminum chloride hyperhydrate.

Many of these measures can also be useful in case of injuries in other areas of the body.
It is always advisable to contact your doctor, to get advice on the most suitable therapy for your problem.

Joycelyn Elders is the author and creator of EmpowerEssence, a health and wellness blog. Elders is a respected public health advocate and pediatrician dedicated to promoting general health and well-being.

The blog covers a wide range of topics related to health and wellness, with articles organized into several categories.

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