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Alternate Names

  • bacterial ulcer


Ecthyma is a bacterial skin infection caused by streptococcal and/or staphylococcal organisms.

What is going on in the body?

Streptococcal and staphylococcal bacteria may cause skin infections at various levels and depths. Ecthyma is similar to impetigo, but causes deeper erosions of the skin. The infection may start at the site of a bug bite or scratch.


What are the causes and risks of the infection?

Because ecthyma is a bacterial infection, it can be contagious to another person whose skin comes into direct physical contact with the ulcerated area of infected skin.


What can be done to prevent the infection?

Any injury or bite should be thoroughly cleansed. A person should avoid scratching the skin even if it itches.


How is the infection diagnosed?

The healthcare professional is usually able to diagnose ecthyma after a complete history and physical examination. A culture may be done of the lesion.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the infection?

Long-term effects of ecthyma could infrequently include spread of infection to other parts of the body or deeper skin infection. Because ecthyma is slow to heal, scarring is likely.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Because ecthyma is a bacterial disease, it can be contagious to other people who come in physical contact with the infected person.


What are the treatments for the infection?

Oral antibiotics are prescribed for ecthyma. Warm soaks are helpful to remove crusts from the lesions. Antiseptic soap, hydrogen peroxide cleansing, and antibiotic ointment may help reduce the infection.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Side effects of antibiotics include stomach upset and allergic reactions.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the infection?

Most people with ecthyma make a full recovery after treatment.


How is the infection monitored?

Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.


Hill, Marcia J. Skin Disorders: Mosby's Clinical Nursing Series, 1994

The Merck Manual of Medical Information, 1997

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