Folliculitis is the inflammation of hair follicles, resulting from small skin abscesses, that can occur anywhere on the skin. The cause of most cases of folliculitis is the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus which enters the body through tiny breaks in the skin, such as those caused by friction with clothing, shaving too closely, or insect bites.
Bacteria rapidly reproduce in environments where pores or follicles are clogged, often the groin, neck or underarms. Folliculitis may also occur from exposure to other bacteria in hot tubs. This condition, dubbed “hot tub folliculitis,” has the same symptoms as folliculitis from other causes, including:
Ingrown hairs, particularly in the beard region, may be confused with folliculitis because they result in mild inflammation and irritation. Since there is no actual infection present, this condition is referred to as pseudo folliculitis.
The best method of prevention of folliculitis is meticulous skin hygiene and careful maintenance of the chlorine level in hot tubs. Risk factors for folliculitis, apart from lack of proper hygiene or living in an unsanitary environment, include being elderly, obese, having diabetes or a weakened immune system.
Treatment of folliculitis involves cleansing of the area, application of topical antiseptics and antibiotic ointments. In more severe cases, oral antibiotics may be prescribed by the doctor. If the infection persists, a culture of the abscess may be taken for laboratory examination.
Complications of folliculitis include the spreading of infection to adjacent areas and the development of methicillin-resistant bacteria, or MRSA, which, in worst case scenarios, may become a serious systemic infection.