Diseases & Conditions

Bacterial Ulcer - Ecthyma


Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Ecthyma is a bacterial skin infection caused by streptococcal or staphylococcal organisms.

What is going on in the body?

Streptococcal and staphylococcal bacteria may cause skin infections at various levels and depths. Ecthyma is similar to impetigo, but causes deeper erosions of the skin. The infection may start at the site of a bug bite or scratch.

What are the causes and risks of the infection?

The streptococcal organism most often causes ecthyma. Any trauma or break in the skin allows the bacteria to begin growing.


Symptoms & Signs

What are the signs and symptoms of the infection?

Ecthyma begins as a small blister that may be pus-filled and have a reddish border. A crusted ulcer follows the appearance of the blister.


Diagnosis & Tests

How is the infection diagnosed?

The healthcare professional is usually able to diagnose ecthyma after a complete history and physical examination. A culture may be done of the lesion.


Prevention & Expectations

What can be done to prevent the infection?

Any injury or bite should be thoroughly cleansed. A person should avoid scratching any bites.

What are the long-term effects of the infection?

Long-term effects of ecthyma include spread of infection to other parts of the body and permanent skin damage with scarring.

What are the risks to others?

Because ecthyma is a bacterial disease, it can be contagious to other people who come in physical contact with the infected person.


Treatment & Monitoring

What are the treatments for the infection?

Antibiotics may be prescribed for ecthyma. Warm soaks are helpful to remove crusts from the lesions. Antiseptic soap or peroxide washes may help reduce the infection.

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Side effects of antibiotics include stomach upset and allergic reactions.

What happens after treatment for the infection?

Most people with ecthyma make a full recovery after treatment.

How is the infection monitored?

Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.


Attribution

Author:Lynn West, MD
Date Written:
Editor:Wendel, Sandra J., BA
Edit Date:08/18/00
Reviewer:Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
Date Reviewed:07/27/01

Sources

Hill, Marcia J. Skin Disorders: Mosby's Clinical Nursing Series, 1994

The Merck Manual of Medical Information, 1997