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Author: Vanessa Ngan, Staff Writer, 2003. Updated by Dr Jannet Gomez, Postgraduate Student in Clinical Dermatology, Queen Mary University, London, United Kingdom, January 2016.
Ecthyma is a skin infection characterised by crusted sores beneath which ulcers form. It is a deep form of impetigo, as the same bacteria causing the infection are involved. Ecthyma causes deeper erosions of the skin into the dermis.
People of all ages, sex and race can be affected, although children, older people and immunocompromised patients (eg, diabetes, neutropenia, immunosuppressive medication, malignancy, HIV) tend to have a higher chance of infection. Other factors that increase the risk of ecthyma include:
Ecthyma most often affects buttocks, thighs, legs, ankle and feet. Occasionally, the local lymph nodes become swollen and painful.
Ecthyma lesion usually begins as a vesicle (small blister) or a pustule on an inflamed area of skin.
Complications of ecthyma may include:
Soak crusted areas
Soak a clean cloth in a mixture of half a cup of white vinegar in a litre of tepid water. Apply the compress to moist areas for about ten minutes several times a day. Gently wipe off the crusts.
Topical antiseptics or antibiotics
A topical antibiotic ointment such as fusidic acid or >mupirocin is often prescribed for localised ecthyma. A topical antiseptic such as povidone iodine, superoxidised solution, antibacterial Manuka honey or hydrogen peroxide cream may be used instead. Apply it at least three times a day to the affected areas and surrounding skin. The treatment should be applied after removing crusts. Look carefully for new lesions to treat. Continue for several days after healing.
Oral antibiotics are recommended if the infection is extensive or proving slow to respond to topical antibiotics. The antibiotic of choice is a penicillin, usually dicloxacillin or flucloxacillin, which are active against both Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus. The duration of treatment varies; several weeks of therapy may be necessary to completely resolve ecthyma.
Another critical factor to consider in the overall management of ecthyma is to improve hygiene. Measures to take include:
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