Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Skin and Soft Tissue Infections

Skin and soft tissue infections can be caused by a variety of bacteria and other microorganisms that enter the skin through wounds, burns and irritated skin. People with neuropathy (numbness), peripheral vascular disease (circulation disorder) and diseases of the lymph system are more susceptible to skin and soft tissue infections.

MRSA is a particular strain of the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria commonly found on the skin that has become resistant to antibiotics. People in healthcare settings or living in a communal setting (prisons, military barracks and even athletes sharing locker rooms) are more likely to get MRSA.

Preventing the spread of MRSA

To prevent developing and spreading MRSA:

  • Keep your hands clean by washing well and often.
  • Keep cuts clean and covered with a proper dressing or bandage until they are healed.
  • Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or anything contaminated by a wound.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as razors, towels, toothbrushes, water bottles and sports equipment that directly touch your body.
  • Clean objects such as gym and sports equipment before and after use.
  • Shower with soap and water right after playing sports or working out in a gym.
  • Wash dirty clothes, linens and towels with hot water and laundry detergent.
  • Dry clothes in a hot dryer, rather than air-drying them.
  • Do not demand antibiotics from your doctor.
  • Take ALL antibiotics as prescribed.
  • Do not share antibiotics with anyone else.

Diagnosing skin and soft tissue infections and MRSA

Many skin and soft tissue infections can be diagnosed by physical examination of the infected area. Other tests to diagnose the type of infection include:

  • Lab test: A sample of the pus or liquid draining from the infection site may be analyzed to determine what microorganism is causing the infection.
  • Blood test: A blood sample will be taken to help identify a specific microorganism.
  • Biopsy: A tissue sample is taken from the infected area to view under a microscope, so the infectious agent can be identified.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: A CT scan combines X-ray and computer technology to produce detailed cross-sectional images of tissue, and bone and blood vessels.

Diagnostic Tests

Legal Information
*

By clicking on these websites, you are leaving the Northwestern Medicine website. These websites are independent resources. Northwestern Medicine does not operate or control the content of these websites. By visiting these websites, you agree to this third party’s terms of use for their website.