Folliculitis is a condition where your hair follicles become inflamed, causing pus-filled swellings (pustules) and painful red bumps to develop on your skin.
A hair follicle is a pouch in your skin from which hair grows. If it becomes inflamed, the condition is known as folliculitis.
Folliculitis is common and can affect people at any age, although adults are more likely to get it than children.
Symptoms of folliculitis can include having:
If a hair pierces through one of the swellings, a crust may form over it.
Folliculitis can develop in any area where hair grows, but usually occurs on your scalp, legs, armpits, buttocks or on your face. Often, many follicles are affected.
If you have these symptoms, see your GP.
Folliculitis usually affects the upper layer of the hair follicle, near the surface of your skin. If the infection spreads deeper, it can cause boils or a more widespread skin infection called cellulitis.
Persistent and severe folliculitis can cause scarring and, if the hair follicle is damaged, permanent hair loss, but this is rare.
Common causes of folliculitis are listed below.
Less common causes of folliculitis are listed below.
If you think you have folliculitis and it causes you discomfort or doesn't clear within a few days, you should see your GP. He or she will ask about your symptoms, examine you and may also ask you about your medical history. Your GP will usually be able to diagnose folliculitis by examining your skin.
If the folliculitis doesn’t respond to treatment or keeps coming back, your GP may take a swab from the affected area. This will be sent to a laboratory for testing to find out the cause of the infection.
Folliculitis usually clears up quickly and gets better on its own within two to 10 days. However, depending on how severe it is, your GP may recommend medicines to help clear up any infection.
There are things you can do on your own to help clear up folliculitis.
There is a range of medicines that can help treat folliculitis. The type of medicine you have will depend on your general health, the cause of the folliculitis and how widespread it is. Your GP will recommend a treatment that is most suitable for you. It's important that you finish your course of treatment. Always ask your GP for advice and read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine. If your folliculitis doesn't clear up after you have completed your treatment or if your condition worsens, contact your GP.
Folliculitis is often caused by bacteria. If the infection is mild, your GP may recommend washing the affected area every day with an antiseptic product. Alternatively, he or she may prescribe an antibiotic cream, such as fusidic acid or mupirocin, to treat the infection. If the folliculitis is severe or keeps coming back, your GP may prescribe antibiotic tablets, such as flucloxacillin or erythromycin.
If your folliculitis is caused by a yeast infection, your GP may prescribe ketoconazole shampoo and/or cream to treat the infection, or tablets such as fluconazole or itraconazole.
If your folliculitis is caused by a viral infection, your GP may prescribe aciclovir, valaciclovir or famciclovir. A five to 10-day course of antiviral therapy is usually recommended.
If your folliculitis is caused by mites, your GP may prescribe permethrin cream or malathion lotion to treat it.
Folliculitis is usually caused by bacteria entering your hair follicles and causing inflammation. There are things you can do to reduce your risk of getting folliculitis. Some examples include the following.
Women who have recurrent folliculitis may want to consider having laser hair removal or use a depilatory.
Produced by Krysta Munford, Bupa Health Information Team, August 2012.
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