Intertrigo is inflammation of the skin folds. It tends to occur in warm, moist areas of the body where two skin surfaces rub or press against each other. Such areas are called intertriginous areas.
Intertrigo affects the top layers of skin. It is caused by moisture, bacteria, or fungus in the folds of the skin. Bright red, well-defined weeping patches and plaques are seen in the folds of the neck, armpits, elbow pits, groin, finger and toe webs, or backs of the knees. If the skin is very moist, it may begin to break down. In severe cases, there may be a bad odor.
The condition is most common in people who are obese. It may also occur in people who must stay in bed or who wear medical devices such as artificial limbs, splints, and braces. These devices may trap moisture against the skin.
Intertrigo is common in warm, moist climates.
It may help to lose weight and change your body position often.
Other things you can do are:
- Separate skin folds with dry towels.
- Blow a fan on moist areas.
- Wear loose clothing and moisture-wicking fabrics.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if:
- The condition does not go away, even with good home care.
- The area of affected skin spreads beyond a skin fold.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your provider can usually tell if you have the condition by looking at your skin.
Other tests may include:
- A skin scraping and a test called a KOH examination to rule out a fungal infection
- Looking at your skin with a special lamp called a Wood's lamp, to rule out a bacterial infection called erythrasma
- In rare cases, a skin biopsy is needed to confirm the diagnosis
Treatment options for intertrigo include:
- Antibiotic or antifungal cream applied to the skin
- Drying medicine, such as Domeboro soaks
- Low-dose steroid cream or immune modulating cream may be used
- Creams or powders that protect the skin
Dinulos JGH. Superficial fungal infections. In: Dinulos JGH, ed. Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 13.
James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Bacterial infections. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 14.
Paller AS, Mancini AJ. Skin disorders caused by fungi. In: Paller AS, Mancini AJ, eds. Hurwitz Clinical Pediatric Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 17.
Last reviewed on: 11/4/2020
Reviewed by: Elika Hoss, MD, Senior Associate Consultant, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.