Folliculitis is an infection in the hair follicles. The infection may occur due to exposure to fungi, a virus or bacteria entering the skin. A bacterial folliculitis infection can involve the superficial layers of skin of the follicle or may cause symptoms deep in the skin layers and affects the whole hair follicle, according to the Mayo Clinic. Folliculitis caused by bacteria may require a trip to the doctor for proper treatment if the condition does not resolve spontaneously.
Folliculitis caused by bacteria varies between affected individuals and by the severity of the condition. For superficial infections, red bumps appear at the hair follicle and the skin surrounding the area is inflamed and reddened. The bumps can form a blister filled with pus over the follicle, according to the Mayo Clinic. Infections that involve the deeper layers of the skin at the hair follicle develop large masses of infection under the surface. These deep pustules cause pain and have pus in them. They may crust over at the surface.
Bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus enter the hair follicle and start the infection. Damage to the follicle allows the bacteria to enter the skin. Common causes of follicle damage include abrasions to the skin, friction from shaving and skin conditions such as acne. Some risk factors for developing folliculitis include obesity, a weakened immune system and increased age, according to the Merck Manual of Medical Information.
A visit to the doctor helps determine in a skin condition is folliculitis. The physician examines the skin and may need to culture the pus from the follicles. The culture will help determine the specific antibiotic needed for treating the condition.
Many forms of folliculitis will resolve spontaneously without medical treatment. Unlike other forms, bacterial folliculitis may require antibiotics to help treat the skin infection. Antibiotics come in the form of a pill or as a topical cream to spread on the skin.
Possible complications of bacterial folliculitis include an increased spread of the infection to surrounding hair follicles and permanent hair loss due to the damage sustained by the follicle. The condition, in extreme forms, may also cause scarring or cellulitis. With cellulitis, the bacteria spread to other areas in the skin and cause an infection of the tissue, characterized by reddened skin that feels warm and tender. Cellulitis differs from folliculitis because the infection can spread quickly to the lymph nodes or to the bloodstream.
Preventing a bacterial folliculitis infection includes decreasing the friction on skin—such as tight clothing or shaving—that allows the skin to open and let the bacteria invade.