Intertrigo

Overview

Intertrigo is a skin condition that causes inflammation (redness and swelling) and a rash. It occurs in skin folds, where skin rubs against other skin. 

Intertrigo is triggered by constant moisture in skin folds:

  • Around the groin
  • Under the armpits
  • In the inner thigh area
  • Under the breasts
  • Abdominal skin folds

Intertrigo can occur in men and women of any age. You’re more likely to develop intertrigo if you have diabetes or are overweight.

Treatment includes keeping the area clean and dry. If the skin becomes infected, we may prescribe an antibiotic, antifungal, or steroid cream to clear the infection. If the condition recurs or is difficult to treat we’ll discuss additional treatments with you. 

Symptoms

The main symptoms of intertrigo are:

  • Moist, reddish-brown patches (rash), usually on both sides of a skin fold. 
  • Itching and burning. The skin may weep or ooze and have an unpleasant odor. 
  • Cracked dry skin that flakes.

Causes and Risk Factors

Intertrigo is caused by constant moisture in skin folds. This also creates an environment in which yeast and bacteria grow easily.

You’re more likely to develop intertrigo if you:

  • Live in a warm, moist climate
  • Have diabetes 
  • Are overweight or obese 
  • Are incontinent or wear adult diapers
  • Must remain in bed for long periods of time

It’s also possible to develop intertrigo if you wear an artificial limb, splint, or brace that traps moisture near your skin.

Diagnosis

We’ll ask about your symptoms and examine you.

Additional tests may include:

  • Skin test. We may gently scrape away a sample of skin so it can be examined under a microscope
  • Wood’s lamp. We may use a special light in a dark room to identify a bacterial infection (erythrasma).
  • Skin biopsy. In rare cases we may take a tissue sample to confirm intertrigo or rule out another condition.

Prevention

Intertrigo isn’t contagious. You can’t be infected by another person who has the condition. These suggestions can help prevent intertrigo from developing or getting worse.

Keep your skin dry. Regularly dry your skin with a towel or blow dryer if you:

  • Live in a warm, moist climate. 
  • Wear an artificial limb or cast. 
  • Have bladder control problems. Be sure to keep your skin as clean and dry as possible. 
  • Have numerous skin folds.

Try to air out your skin for at least 30 minutes 2 times each day by using a blow dryer or fan to blow air on your skin and skin folds.

Dry your skin well. After showering, swimming, or exercising: 

  • Dry skin folds and other areas that trap moisture, such as armpits, groin, and under your breasts.
  • Use plain baby powder to keep the area dry.
  • Clean in-between showers. Place a barely damp warm washcloth in the affected folds for 20 minutes. Then dry the skin with a hair dryer on cool as noted above.

Manage your weight. If you’re overweight, losing weight can reduce your risk of developing intertrigo.

Avoid moisturizing creams. These products can trap moisture and break down skin tissue. This makes your skin more prone to infection.

Treat early symptoms. Use over-the-counter medications, including:

  • 1 percent hydrocortisone cream twice a day for itching. 
  • Antifungal cream with clotrimazole or miconazole for small red dots at the edges of a skin fold. Apply twice a day to prevent yeast from growing.

Choose the right clothes. Wear cotton clothing. Avoid:

  • Tight clothing and shoes. 
  • Synthetic fabrics, such as nylon and spandex.

If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following:
(1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder.

This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.