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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Folliculitis - Topic Overview

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What is folliculitis?

Folliculitis camera.gif is an infection in the hair follicles. Each hair on your body grows out of a tiny pouch called a follicle. You can have folliculitis on any part of your body that has hair. But it is most common on the face and scalp and areas rubbed by clothing, such as the thighs and groin.

What causes folliculitis?

It usually is caused by bacteria. It also can be caused by yeast or another type of fungus.

You may get folliculitis if you have damaged hair follicles. Shaving or wearing clothes that rub the skin can irritate the follicles, which can lead to folliculitis. They also can become blocked or irritated by sweat, machine oils, or makeup. When the follicles are injured, they are more likely to become infected.

You are more likely to get folliculitis if you:

  • Use a hot tub, whirlpool, or swimming pool that is not properly treated with chlorine.
  • Wear tight clothes.
  • Use antibiotics or steroid creams for long periods.
  • Use or work with substances that can irritate or block the follicles. Examples include makeup, cocoa butter, motor oil, tar, and creosote.
  • Have an infected cut, scrape, or surgical wound. The bacteria or fungi can spread to nearby hair follicles.
  • Have a disease such as diabetes or HIV that lowers your ability to fight infection.

What are the symptoms?

Folliculitis usually looks like red pimples with a hair in the center of each one. The pimples may have pus in them, and they may itch or burn. When the pimples break open, they may drain pus, blood, or both.

"Hot tub folliculitis" most often appears about 72 hours after you've been in a hot tub or spa. Many small pimples appear on your stomach and sometimes on your arms and legs. You might have a mild fever and have an upset stomach. Most of the time, this kind of folliculitis goes away on its own in 7 to 10 days.

How is folliculitis diagnosed?

Your doctor will check your skin and ask about your health and activities. He or she may do tests to find out what is causing your folliculitis and to make sure you don’t have a different problem, such as impetigo or heat rash. Testing a sample of the fluid in the pimples or a sample of tissue can help your doctor learn what is causing the infection.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 31, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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