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Definition of Erythrasma

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Erythrasma: A chronic superficial slowly spreading skin infection, especially in the folds of the body and webs between the toes, caused by a bacterium called Corynebacterium minutissimum. Erythrasma most often affects adults, especially those with diabetes, and people in the tropics.

Erythrasma looks like a chronic fungal infection. Scaling, cracks, and slight maceration (softening) typically occur in the toe webs, almost always the 3rd and 4th interspaces. Where the thighs contact the scrotum, sharp-edged plaques first appear irregular and pink and later become brown with a fine scale. Erythrasma may also involve the armpits, creases below the breasts, abdominal folds, and perineum, particularly in obese middle-aged women or in patients with diabetes mellitus. Erythrasma can be distinguished from ringworm with a Wood's light (a type of UV light) which causes erythrasma characteristically to fluoresce a coral-red color.

The treatment for erythrasma is an antibiotic (such as erythromycin or tetracycline). Antibacterial soaps can also help control the infection. However, recurrence 6 to 12 months later is commonplace.

Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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