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How to Tell Acne From Staph

by
author image Jonathan Croswell
Jonathan Croswell has spent more than five years writing and editing for a number of newspapers and online publications, including the "Omaha World-Herald" and "New York Newsday." Croswell received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Nebraska and is currently pursuing a Master's of Health and Exercise Science at Portland State University.

Staph infections are a product of the staphylococcus bacterium, which resides on the skin of humans but can cause serious medical problems if it gets beneath the surface and infects the blood. These infections have a relationship with acne that can go both ways--acne is sometimes the product of a staph infection, but can also be the cause if open wounds created by broken pimples become infected with staph. One type of staph infection leading to acne is folliculitis, which creates clusters of acne on the skin. It's important to know whether your acne is due to staph in order to address the infection before it gets worse.

Step 1

Identify any acne on your skin. Acne appearing on the face is more likely to be the result of clogged pores and greasy skin, since this is where acne is most prevalent. Wherever you find acne, check to see if the zits are broken open or if any red bumps appear on the skin. Keep an eye on these zits: it's normal for them to ooze liquid, pus and blood-like fluid, but if you notice red scabs that don't seem to heal, this could be a sign of a staph infection.

Step 2

Check for large, raised, red bumps on your skin. These are usually unbroken and are most commonly found on the body's "hot spots," such as the armpits and groin. If these bumps burst, they can be painful and secrete a blood-like liquid. They differ in appearance from acne in that they never develop a white head but instead are a boil-like blemish commonly associated with staph.

Step 3

Determine whether the oozing from your skin is helping to relieve pressure and reduce the presence of acne or is resulting in the spread of acne. Fluids released from acne typically do not spread acne unless it carries the staph infection.

Step 4

Identify any unbroken lumps that are painful. Lumps resulting from acne are usually painful, while even the boils created by staph typically do not cause pain in early stages unless they are popped.

Step 5

Locate any rashes developing among or around your acne spots. This could be a variant of the staph infection known as impetigo.

Step 6

Visit a doctor to get your skin tested; this will determine whether you have an acne problem or a staph infection. It's important to do this as soon as you develop concerns you might have staph and could save you from further complications, pain or both.

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