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What is an Intertrigo?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Intertrigo is a type of inflammation that occurs under skin folds. It is most likely to be seen in elderly people, infants, and individuals who are immobile due to their weight or health conditions. Most cases result from excessive rubbing and moisture within skin folds that cause painful rashes to emerge. A caregiver or a person who suffers from the condition should contact a medical professional to evaluate the rash and determine the best treatment options. The condition usually goes away when the affected area is kept clean and dry for several days.

Irritation and redness occur when two opposing areas of skin constantly rub against each other. Heat and moisture from sweat or bodily fluids can quickly worsen the condition, and the skin may break open and become susceptible to infection. Skin inflammation can occur in many parts of the body, including neck creases, folds of fat on the abdomen or back, behind the knees, and the areas between toes and fingers.

Obesity is a prominent risk factor for intertrigo in adults since overweight people generally lead more sedentary lifestyles. People who are confined to beds or wheelchairs are also highly susceptible, especially if they do not have feeling in affected areas or are unable to communicate their discomfort. In infants and incontinent elderly individuals, intertrigo can occur if diapers are not inspected and changed frequently.

Mild cases can usually be treated at home by cleaning the area and keeping it dry with a fan and soft towels. Infants and incontinent adults should be checked frequently to avoid further moisture buildup. Adults are encouraged to lose weight and wear loose-fitting clothing to reduce friction. Rashes that develop on bedridden or paralyzed patients should be monitored frequently by caregivers to ensure they go away. Caregivers can help prevent future rashes by adjusting their patients' positions often and bathing them regularly.

If the condition does not resolve in about two weeks with home care, an appointment with a dermatologist should be scheduled. Intertrigo is usually easy to diagnose upon physical examination, though the doctor may decide to collect a culture or a skin tissue sample from an affected fold to check for secondary infections. Laboratory testing of samples may reveal the presence of bacteria or fungi and help the doctor make an accurate final diagnosis. Treatment for severe intertrigo usually involves a course of antibacterial or antifungal medications, along with anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce immediate symptoms of pain and swelling. In addition, a doctor can provide helpful information to patients and caregivers about reducing the risk of developing rashes in the future.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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