Updated 11 February 2021

What is Intertrigo? Symptoms & Causes

Intertrigo
Intertrigo is a skin condition characterised by a rash located in flexures. This means intertrigo rash can be seen:
  • Around the folds of your neck,
  • At the back of your ears,
  • In the armpits,
  • Under the breasts,
  • Around the groin area,
  • In between your toes,
  • In the region between your buttocks,
  • Between your fingers
  • Under skin folds on the abdomen
Intertrigo is a skin condition that anyone can have. It does not matter your age, whether you are a child, teenager, young adult, middle aged or elderly; intertrigo is known to affect a broad spectrum of people. However, there are some people that are more predisposed to having intertrigo. Some of these people include:
  • Overweight or obese individuals,
  • People suffering from diabetes,
  • People with genetic predisposition to intertrigo and other skin infections,
  • People that sweat a lot, a condition known as hyperhidrosis,
  • Alcoholics, and
  • Smokers.
Infants may also be susceptible to getting intertrigo and napkin dermatitis in babies is a form of intertrigo. This skin condition is caused by the infant's buttocks and groin area being exposed to faeces, urine, and sweat.

What are the Symptoms of Intertrigo?

 Intertrigo may occur as an acute, relapsing or chronic skin condition, but the appearance of intertrigo on skin folds will ultimately be dependent on the primary cause of the skin infection. Regardless of the cause of your intertrigo, the most common symptoms usually are:
  • Inflammation of the skin,
  • Skin redness,
  • Irritability,
  • Itching,
  • Odour (especially where the intertrigo has a bacterial infection),
  • Cracked and peeling skin.

What are the Primary Causes of Intertrigo?

Intertrigo is a skin condition that may be caused by several factors. Chief amongst these factors include:
  • Lifestyle habits - if you drink or smoke a lot, you could be highly prone to contracting infectious intertrigo.
  • Other health issues such as an overgrowth of microbiomes on your flexural skin. Yeast, bacteria, and corynebacterium can provide a perfect storm for intertrigo infection. People with diabetes are also prone to having intertrigo.
  • Friction from the rubbing or movement of adjacent skin which results in chafing.
  • Environment - exposure to heat from the sun and other sources can cause the temperature of the surface of your skin to be high. Profuse sweating and the moist conditions in areas of your body where there are skin folds serve as good breeding grounds for an intertrigo skin infection.

Tests & Diagnosis of Intertrigo

 A visit to your doctor's office is necessary if you suspect that you may have intertrigo. Your doctor would normally carry out a physical examination of the area or regions where the intertrigo infection is present. Finding the root cause of intertrigo is important and this may result in your doctor performing any of the following;
  • Skin Swabbing or Scraping - your doctor may take a swab of the macerated site to identify any bacteria or fungus which may be present.
  • Histopathology - in the unfortunate event that your intertrigo is quite unusual and does not respond well to any conventional treatment, your doctor may perform a skin biopsy for the purpose of histopathology.
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How is Intertrigo Treated?

Intertrigo treatment starts from identifying the primary cause of your intertrigo. The type of treatment will also depend on the microorganism(s) observed from the swab, scrape or biopsy of the rash on your skin.

Zinc Oxide:

 In the case of intertrigo caused by either contact dermatitis or napkin dermatitis in infants, the use of a paste composed of zinc oxide would help in providing relief.

Antibiotics:

 If the intertrigo is caused by a bacteria infection, your doctor may prescribe either oral or topical antibiotics.

Antifungals:

Where your intertrigo is a result of an overgrowth of fungi or yeast on your flexural skin, then your doctor may prescribe either oral or topical antifungal agents.

How to Gain Full Recovery and Prevent from Intertrigo?

To prevent intertrigo, people suffering from hyperhidrosis should use antiperspirant powder or cream. These can help to reduce the amount of moisture on the skin caused by profuse sweating. It is important to take regular showers after periods of perspiring. Make sure to properly dry your skin by gently patting it with a clean, dry towel. If you suspect that you may have intertrigo, use an antifungal cream or one with corticosteroids two times daily until you notice a positive change and the rash is completely gone. However, avoid using these creams daily as a preventive measure. Avoid wearing tight bras, but rather wear bras that are comfortable and offer very good support. After engaging in exercise or an intense workout routine, make sure to take a shower and dry your skin properly as well. Using a hairdryer set on cool drying to dry off your armpits, the webs between your toes, and the skin under your breasts can help to prevent an intertrigo infection.

Complications of Intertrigo

Diabetic patients are at risk of having severe cellulitis due to an intertrigo infection. In addition to this, ulceration and skin fissuring may occur in obese individuals particularly in skin folds that are difficult to reach. This may cause extreme pain and can also lead to sepsis.
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