Intertrigo: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

What to Do When a Yeast Infection Develops in Skin Folds

An illustration of the Candida albicans fungus.
An illustration of the Candida albicans fungus. MedicalRF.com/Getty Images

What, exactly, is intertrigo? It is a yeast infection of skin folds that's caused by Candida albicans. Skin folds are areas of the body that have skin touching skin, such as the armpits, the groin and under heavy breasts or fat folds, where the environment is warm and moist. This is the perfect environment for Candida albicans (a yeast that is normally found on the skin) to overgrow and cause symptoms.

Other Factors That Can Cause Intertrigo

Hot, humid weather can lead a person to develop the skin condition, as can tight or abrasive underclothing or poor hygiene. This includes wearing dirty or sweaty underclothing and not showering daily or after exercise. Inflammatory skin diseases, such as psoriasis, that occur in the skin folds can cause intertrigo to develop, as well. The use of topical steroids has also been found to be a contributing factor in some cases.

If you think that any medication you're taking may be causing your case of intertrigo, talk to your doctor about making some adjustments and ask about the best way to treat the intertrigo. If psoriasis is the cause, for example, speak to your doctor about how to better manage that condition to prevent intertrigo from developing.

How It Looks

Not sure if you have intertrigo? The skin condition is characterized by an intensely red, macerated, glistening rash with scaling on the edges.

The edge of the rash extends just beyond the limits of the opposing skin folds. Satellite lesions (small areas of the same rash that are close to the main rash) are characteristic of intertrigo and other Candida skin infections.

Getting a Diagnosis

The majority of cases of intertrigo can be diagnosed based on its characteristic appearance.

If there is any question about the diagnosis, a KOH test can be performed to detect the presence of yeast. A bacterial culture can help diagnose a secondary bacterial infection.

Intertrigo Treatment

When it comes to intertrigo treatment, antifungal creams such as clotrimazole and miconazole are often used. Equally important in intertrigo treatment is keeping the skin folds as dry as possible. Change out of sweaty clothes after exercise and make sure that you dry off well after bathing or showering. A drying solution such as Burow's compresses can be applied to the skin folds for 20 to 30 minutes several times a day to promote drying.

Preventing the Condition

Most preventative measures involve reducing skin-to-skin contact and keeping the area dry. If you're overweight or obese, losing weight to reduce the size of fat folds may also help, as can wearing loose, soft underclothing. If it's an option for you, forgo underclothing, such as sports bras, until your condition improves.

Remember to apply antifungal absorbent powder to affected areas daily and wash the affected areas with soap and water every day, as well.

Don't try to diagnose intertrigo yourself, even if you're certain that the skin condition is the culprit for your discomfort.

Consult a physician to get a proper diagnosis and a treatment plan. 

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