Overview: What is Impetigo

The information in this section has been gathered from existing peer-reviewed and other literature and has been reviewed by expert dermatologists on the CSPA Medical Advisory Board.

Impetigo (pronounced im-peh-ty-go) is a bacterial infection of the outer layers of skin, commonly caused mainly by Staphylococcus aureus and sometimes by Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria. It can spread through direct skin contact with the infected person, or by touching objects that have been previously used by the infected individual. Impetigo frequently appears in young children under 6 years of age and is contagious, with the infection often being itchy and painful. Adults too can get it, although the majority of cases are seen in children.

There are two types of impetigo:

  • Nonbullous impetigo – This is the most common type, accounting for 70% of all impetigo cases. They can be caused by S. pyogenes or S. aureus bacteria. The condition is characterized by red, oozing sores that eventually develop a yellow crust. It usually affects the face, head and neck areas.
  • Bullous impetigo - This type is less common, and is more often seen children. It is caused by toxins produced by S. aureus that will lead to blistering of the skin. This type of impetigo is distinguished by large, flaccid sores. For example in children wearing diapers, sores appear in the buttocks region.

Individuals impacted typically have skin that show prior signs of irritations. Some causes and risk factors are as follows:

  • Scrapes and cuts
  • Insect bites
  • Scratching
  • Eczema
  • Poison ivy