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The Most Common Infectious Diseases Affecting the Skin

The Most Common Infectious Diseases Affecting the Skin

There are a wide variety of infectious diseases affecting the skin. Some of these diseases can be mild and cause minimal harm, while others are more serious and might require medical attention.

Regardless of the severity, it’s important to have knowledge of these common skin infections in order to know how to prevent it, as well as how to treat it.

Common Infectious Diseases Affecting the Skin

The skin is the largest organ in the body, and it is also the body’s first line of defense against infection. However, our skin is not impervious to all types of germs, and this is the reason why people get skin infections.

Skin infections are usually caused bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites, and can affect any part of a person’s skin.

Here are some of the common types of skin infections:

Athlete’s Foot

infectious diseases affecting the skin

Athlete’s foot is an infection caused by a fungi called tinea pedis. It usually affects the skin between the toes, but it can also spread throughout the foot, as well as on a person’s arms or chest.

A person can get athlete’s foot if they have sweaty feet, and are always wearing shoes. This humid environment creates the perfect breeding ground for fungi which causes athlete’s foot.

Athlete’s foot is very itchy, and over time a person can also develop blisters and sores on their feet. Treatment is usually done through anti-fungal creams, as well as keeping the foot clean and dry.

It usually goes away after a couple of weeks of treatment.


Despite its name, ringworm is actually a type of fungal infection, just like athlete’s foot. It owes its name to the ring-shaped rashes it causes, which tend to be itchy, and can also look swollen, dry, or flaky.

It usually appears on a person’s scalp or groin, but it can appear on other parts of the body as well. Because it’s a fungal infection, there’s also the possibility that it can spread to other parts of the body. Which is why treatment is important.

The most common treatment is using anti-fungal creams, which helps the infection clear up in about 4 weeks.

Malassezia infection

Malassezia, just like athlete’s foot and ringworm, is another type of fungal infection that affects a person’s skin. It feeds on the oils of the skin, and usually appears on the scalp. It can cause a number of skin problems, which include seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff, facial or scalp psoriasis, and folliculitis.

What Causes Seborrheic Dermatitis Flare-Ups?

The symptoms can vary depending on what areas of the skin are infected, but the usual symptoms include itching, irritated skin, dandruff, as well as skin flakes on other parts of the body.

Treatment for malassezia can be done using anti-fungal creams or shampoos. For more severe cases, topical steroids might be used, especially in cases of seborrheic dermatitis.


infectious diseases affecting the skin

Warts are growths of skin that usually appear on a person’s hands. However, they can also appear almost anywhere on the body.

Warts are one of the most common types of infectious diseases affecting the skin, and are caused by a type of virus called the human papillomavirus or HPV. Warts can take anywhere between two to six months to develop after your skin gets infected with HPV.

Some strains of HPV are spread through sexual contact, and these types of HPV can increase a woman’s risk for cervical cancer.

Despite this, most warts are harmless, and are generally a cosmetic problem. Doctors can safely remove warts using salicylic acid, freezing, laser treatment, or minor surgery. Some warts also go away on their own over time.


Boils are a type of skin infection that forms when bacteria infects the hair follicles on your skin. These usually appear on parts of skin that have hair, prone to sweating, or constantly experience friction. This means that they usually appear on a person’s face, armpits, back of the neck, thighs, and buttocks.

Boils can be painful, and cause the skin around it to become red and swollen. In the middle of the boil is usually a pus-filled bump that grows bigger over time. Eventually, the bump ruptures and then the pus drains out.

Treatment for boils can be done at home using special skin creams, and by keeping the area clean and sterile. However, for bigger boils, seeking medical assistance is best.


infectious diseases affecting the skin

Scabies is a type of skin infection caused by the human itch mite. These mites are parasitic animals that burrow under a person’s skin, where it starts to lay eggs.

This, in turn, causes the symptoms most commonly associated with scabies which are severe itching, and a pimple-like rash.

Scabies is a highly infectious disease, and people living in close proximity can get infected if one of them has scabies.

Treatment for scabies usually involves medication that can only be prescribed by a doctor. This medication usually comes in the form of a lotion that is applied to the areas of skin affected by scabies. It is left on the skin for a period of time for it to work, before it gets washed off. This kills off any mites on the skin, as well as the eggs that they lay.

Treatment usually lasts about two to four weeks.


Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is an infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae. This specific type of bacteria can lay dormant for a long time, and it can take up to 20 years before a person starts to develop symptoms of leprosy. It can affect a person’s nerves, skin, eyes, and the lining of the nose.

The symptoms can vary depending on which parts of the body are affected. For example, if the nerves are affected, a person might lose their sense of touch, or ability to feel pain. This can cause difficulty, because a person might suffer from cuts and burns without even noticing.

One common myth about leprosy is that the fingers and toes of a person with leprosy can “fall off.” In reality, what happens is that because of injury, a person’s fingers and/or toes can get reabsorbed into the body, which makes it seem that they lost their toes and fingers.

These days, leprosy can be treated, and most people who get infected can live normal and healthy lives. The important thing is early detection, and following through on the right treatment.

Learn more about skin health here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Athlete’s foot – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/athletes-foot/symptoms-causes/syc-20353841#:~:text=Athlete’s%20foot%20(tinea%20pedis)%20is,causes%20itching%2C%20stinging%20and%20burning., Accessed November 11, 2020

Ringworm – NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ringworm/, Accessed November 11, 2020

Skin conditions associated with malassezia | DermNet NZ, https://dermnetnz.org/topics/malassezia-infections/, Accessed November 11, 2020

Common warts – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-warts/symptoms-causes/syc-20371125, Accessed November 11, 2020

Boils and carbuncles – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/boils-and-carbuncles/symptoms-causes/syc-20353770, Accessed November 11, 2020

CDC – Scabies, https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/scabies/index.html, Accessed November 11, 2020

What is Hansen’s Disease? | Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) | CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/leprosy/about/about.html, Accessed November 11, 2020

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Nov 17, 2020
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel