Intertrigo is a term used to describe a type of dermatitis that affects the skin folds. It is a widely prevalent inflammatory skin disorder affecting skin regions that are usually in contact with one another, like the armpits, groin, skin creases, and below the breasts.
The skin areas which remain in contact with one another are known as intertriginous zones. Obese people may develop skin creases in many different areas of the body and hence are at a greater risk of developing intertrigo.
Intertrigo develops due to skin irritation caused by friction and further aggravation by heat and moisture. Excess levels of humidity and heat as well as being overweight increases the risk of intertrigo. The affected skin is also vulnerable to bacterial and fungal infections. It is important to note that the skin folds may also develop eruptions due to causes/conditions other than intertrigo.
A visual examination is sufficient to diagnose intertrigo. Treatment is aimed at reducing exposure to heat and humidity and eliminating varied factors that cause skin friction.
Symptoms of Intertrigo
The signs and symptoms of intertrigo are listed below:
- Formation of itchy, raw, reddish-brown, or reddish skin rash. The affected skin may be crusty or cracked, ooze, and emit a foul smell.
- The affected intertriginous skin zones may experience burning sensations, redness, and itchiness.
- Sometimes, a musty odor may emanate from a prolonged or chronic case of intertrigo.
- The affected skin areas may become inflamed and cause discomfort. Sometimes, they may form scales.
- Intertrigo rashes can occur in the armpits, groin, neck creases, the inner thighs, on the underside of the belly or breasts, and between the buttocks and toes.
- The skin condition commonly affects skin creases that rub against each other and accumulate/trap moisture. It is widely prevalent in obese and overweight individuals.
- Often, intertrigo develops as diaper rash in infants.
- The skin rash may also be accompanied by bacterial, yeast, or other fungal infections of the affected skin. Such infections typically occur in areas with skin creases that are warm and tend to remain moist. Such an environment is ideal for germs to grow and thrive.
Causes of Intertrigo
Simple intertrigo is a minor irritating dermatitis caused due to a combination of frictional rubbing, moisture, and elevated temperatures.
The skin condition may experience complications due to infections by dermatophytic fungi, yeast, and bacteria, as well as an irritant and allergic reactions to different chemicals, allergens, and medicines.
Some of the common risk factors which increase the risk to developing intertrigo are listed below:
- Environmental aspects are one of the main causes of intertrigo aggravations. They may include exposure to elevated humidity and heat, primarily during the summer season.
- Activities like running, riding bicycles, or others that involve repetitive motions, create friction which can then cause skin damage.
- The occurrence of large skin creases, especially those which form due to obesity, also poses a greater threat to developing the skin rash.
- The many skin creases are particularly vulnerable due to trapping of water lost from the body via sweating, etc., in the skin folds, a comparatively higher temperature of the skin, and increased friction and chafing due to continual contact with the surrounding skin.
- Infants are chubby, and have an arched posture and a shorter neck, thereby increasing the risk of intertrigo.
- An underlying cause of psoriasis, diabetes, obesity, malnutrition, or incontinence; or use of a brace, splint, or prosthetics, i.e., artificial limbs; and poor personal hygiene.
It is important to note that varied exotic skin conditions also tend to affect the skin folds. Hence besides a physical investigation, doctors will carry out additional tests and procedures to diagnose intertrigo.
Treatment of Intertrigo
Treatment of intertrigo that is not complicated by infections typically includes removing the environmental influences which have caused the condition in the first place.
The affected skin areas may be alleviated with mild topical steroids such as 1 percent hydrocortisone cream, and then applying a thick layer of greasy, drying, and bland ointments like zinc oxide paste on top of it.
Secondary infections of affected skin areas may be treated with topical antibiotics, anti-fungal creams, etc. as prescribed by a doctor.
Patients may follow the below-listed self-care guidelines to prevent the risk of intertrigo at a later stage:
- Shower on a daily basis and dry fully after each bath/shower. Ensure that the skin is kept as cool and dry as possible.
- Use a bra that has good support.
- Do not wear tight apparel or shoes.
- Go for shoes with an open front if the rash affects the areas between toes.
- Regular use of greasy bland ointments like petroleum jelly, etc., on skin areas prone to developing intertrigo also helps.
- Obese and overweight people need to exercise, change their diet, and seek medical attention to lose excess body weight.
- Frequently change the diapers if an infant has diaper rash.
Following the above-listed steps will definitely help in the rapid resolution of simple intertrigo.
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
jean on February 03, 2017:
I have spots on my legs and arms that are healing now I woke up one day and found them on the bottom half of my legs and arms, the doctor doe's not know what it is.