The hair follicles can be infected by the Staphylococcus or any other type of bacteria. Such a case of infected hair follicles is known as folliculitis.
Some forms of folliculitis are called as barber’s itch and hot tub folliculitis. Permanent hair loss can occur if the bacterial or fungal infection of the hair follicle is severe.
Generally an infected hair follicle will have the appearance of a little pimple with a white head around the hair follicle. Mostly, they are shallow and dry out after few days. However if they are deep and recur, then they will need medical treatment.
Symptoms of Infected hair follicle
The signs of infected hair follicle/folliculitis differ depending on the kind of infections. The shallow superficial infected hair follicles cause:
- Pus-filled, cluster bumps around the hair follicles
- Blisters that are filled with pus
- Tenderness and itching
- Swelling of skin
Infected hair follicles that develop from deep within the skin around the hair, elicit the following signs:
- Larger sized bumps
- Blisters filled with pus
Mild infection from infected hair follicles may cause the following complications:
- Persistence and spreading of the infection
- Development of staph infection patches that cause itching
Severely infected hair follicles may cause the following complications:
- Development of more number of painful pus filled boils
- Causing permanent hair loss due to destruction of the hair follicles
- Development of thick skin patches and scars
Types of folliculitis
Superficial infected hair follicles include:
- Pseudomonas folliculitis: Spreading of pseudomonas bacteria through contaminated water due to a continuous exposure from 8 hrs to 5 days. It causes red rash and itchy bumps, which develop into pus filled pustules later.
- Staphylococcal folliculitis: Itchy, pus filled bumps that occur all over the body wherever hair follicles are available and where the bacteria enter through wounds and cuts. If it affects the portion of beard area, it is named as barber’s itch.
- Pitrosporum folliculitis: Red, itchy and chronic pustules that are caused by yeast, mostly on chest and back, and in other body parts.
- Pseudofolliculitis barbae: The occurrence of skin inflammation on beard area, wherein the hair which was shaved causes a scar by curving back into the skin.
Deeply infected hair follicles include:
- Gram-negative folliculitis: The antibiotics used for a long time for the treatment of acne, cause imbalance in nasal bacteria, which results in contracting this type of infected hair follicle or folliculitis. Occasionally the spread of the bacteria causes severe acne lesions.
- Sycosis barbae: Men, who have just started shaving, experience the swelling of the whole hair follicles. Little blisters appear on upper lips, chin and jaw. It may continue to prevail if shaving is continued. If it becomes severe it may cause scars.
- Boils and carbuncles: They are painful, red bumps caused due to deep infection of hair follicles by the staph bacteria. The bumps filled with pus grow bigger and get ruptured, and then drain out often leaving a scar. Carbuncles are clusters of boils with deeper and severe infection that occur normally over the back neck, shoulders, back and thighs. The healing of carbuncles is slow with greater chances of leaving scars
- Eosinophilic folliculitis: Even though the cause is unknown for this folliculitis, it is believed that yeast like fungus might be responsible for causing this infected hair follicle. This type of folliculitis is seen in HIV infected persons, wherein one can see the recurring patches of swelling and pus filled sores that appear mostly on face and sometimes on back and upper arms.
Causes of Infected hair follicles
The causes of infected hair follicles are mentioned below:
- Excess perspiration
- Injuries, surgical wounds, abrasions, etc.
- Friction due to shaving and use of tight clothing
- Plastic dressings or adhesive tape cover
- Inflammatory conditions of skin
Factors that worsen the condition of infected hair follicles are as follows:
- Surgery or injury of skin
- Antibiotic therapy for long period for treating acne
- Topical corticosteroid therapy
- A weak immune system and conditions like organ transplantation, severe diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and chronic leukemia.
- Conditions of skin such as dermatitis or acne
- Wearing high boots or waders and heat trap clothing
- Excess weight or obesity
- Exposure to hot water tub or warm swimming pool
Treatment of Infected hair follicles
Depending on the type and the severity of infection, the infected hair follicles are given treatment as under:
- For Staphylococcal folliculitis: Oral and topical antibiotic medicines are given. Using electric shaver or new blade every time is recommended.
- Pityrosporum folliculitis: Topical and antifungal medications are prescribed. To avoid recurring conditions, use topical ointments regularly. Avoid antibiotics as it may upset the balance of bacteria on skin.
- Pseudomonas folliculitis: Oral and topical medications for controlling the itching. If the cases are serious, they may need oral antibiotics.
- Pseudofolliculitis barbae: Follow self care methods such as, using electric shaver, using new blade every time, using gel instead of shaving cream, shaving only towards the direction of the hair growth and applying moisturizer after washing the face.
- Sycosis barbae: Warm saline compresses and topical antibiotics. Oral antibiotics if the infection is severe.
- Gram-negative folliculitis: Topical or oral antibiotics
- Boils and carbuncles: Antibiotic medications, after draining the pus by a small incision for healing and to avoid recurrence.
- Eosinophilic folliculitis: Topical corticosteroids for limited period only. For AIDS/HIV persons, topical steroids with oral antihistamines may be given.
Infected hair follicle pictures