Dermatology Information and Resources


Infections occur as a result of microorganisms entering the body via viral activity, bacteria, fungi, or parasites. While not all microorganisms are harmful to the body, infections can manifest in a variety of ways depending on the type of organism, means of transmission, and severity of symptoms caused.[1] The main difference between viral and bacterial infections is that viruses are smaller than bacteria, so they are able to enter a host and its cells, while bacteria can survive without a host. Viral infections also have a greater link to diseases than bacteria, which usually grow in specific areas.

Types of infectious diseases: Viral infections cover a range of virally transmitted diseases. Some common examples of viral infections include:

  • Common cold
  • HIV
  • Meningitis
  • Herpes simplex
  • Warts
  • Skin infections
  • Influenza
  • Hepatitis C
  • Ebola
  • Polio
  • Zika virus
  • MERS[2]

Common Bacterial Infections include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Cholera
  • Gingivitis
  • Dysentery
  • Typhoid
  • Tuberculosis
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Food poisoning[3]

Fungal infections include:

  • Ringworm
  • Athletes foot

Common Symptoms: Symptoms of an infection will largely depend on the organism responsible and area of the infection: Fever, general malaise and fatigue, chills, muscle aches, and digestive problems tend to accompany most infections regardless of which type. Viruses are known to target certain cells, in certain areas of the body. In the case of genital herpes, the virus causes swollen bumps, and pain. While the viral common cold will impact the sinuses, causing a runny nose, sore throat, muscle aches, and a range of other symptoms. Since certain viruses also carry disease, many viruses remain in the body for the person’s lifetime whether they be dormant or bring about symptoms. Bacterial infections are normally localized with redness and heat, swelling, fever, and pain at the site of infection. Unlike viruses, a bacterial infection more likely to affect a smaller area of the body at one time. However, certain bacterial infections can spread to the brain, heart and other vital organs causing serious damage if not treated promptly. Fungal infections often manifest in skin ailments such as rashes, cracking, peeling, bumps, redness, swelling, skin discoloration, and pain.[4]

Treatment: Treatment of any infection will depend largely on the type. Generally, practicing good hygiene like frequent hand washing, proper sterilization of environment, using disinfectants, abstaining from unprotected sexual contact, and not sharing toothbrushes or any other personal products can help with day-to-day protection. Building up the immune system via a healthy diet and exercise can also keep infections to a minimum. A doctor can administer a range of tests depending on your symptoms including a blood test, swabs, urine, stool sampling, a spinal tap, biopsies, or imaging procedures.[5]

It’s also important to note that antibiotics only kill bacterial infections, not viral so getting a prompt diagnosis when illness arises is the best way to receive proper treatment. Antibiotic Treatments for bacterial infections will vary based on the type of bacteria found, as certain strains of bacteria are more easily impacted by certain classes of antibiotics (streptococcus vs. E. Coli for instance). Keep in mind that overusing antibiotics can lead to bacteria resistance, making further problems more difficult to treat.[6]

Antiviral treatment varies widely as well, as different drugs impact the variety of viral formations.
Antifungal medications can be found over the counter or may be prescribed by a doctor depending on the severity. Applied topically, the majority of these infections can be treated directly on site, rather than with oral medications. However, some oral antifungal medications to exist to treat fungal infections that attack internal organs.

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