A 14-year-old female visited a dental office for her annual checkup. Extraoral examination revealed numerous crusts on the patient`s face.
Joen Iannucci Haring, DDS, MS
The patient was aware of the lesions on her facial skin and stated that the crusts had been present for less than one week. The patient described the lesions as "itchy" and commented that she was currently using an over-the-counter cream to treat such symptoms.
She revealed that her last visit to a physician was several months earlier for the treatment of bronchitis.
With no significant medical history, the patient appeared to be in a general good state of health. The patient`s dental history included regular examinations and routine dental treatment. At the time of the dental appointment, the patient was not taking medications of any kind.
Intraoral examination revealed no significant positive findings. Extraoral examination of the head and neck region revealed numerous yellowish-brown crusts on the skin of the face adjacent to, but not involving, the right commissure of the lips (see photo above). Several enlarged and tender lymph nodes were detected upon palpation. No other lesions were noted during the extraoral examination.
Based on the clinical information available, which of the following is the most likely diagnosis?
- herpes zoster
- angular cheilitis
- allergic reaction
- recurrent herpes infection
Impetigo is a superficial bacterial infection of the skin caused by Streptococcus pyogenes and/or Staphylococcus aureus. This bacterial infection is associated with non-intact skin and often involves areas of dermatitis, cuts, abrasions, and insect bites; intact skin is not involved.
Impetigo is transmitted through skin contact. Infection results when bacteria enter the skin via insect bites or other traumatized areas. Impetigo is typically seen in children and can occur in epidemics.
Outbreaks are associated with poor personal hygiene, crowded living conditions, and hot, humid climates.
Impetigo is most often seen on the skin of the face and extremities and does not involve the lips or oral cavity. This infection first appears as vesicles and pustules on an erythematous base. The vesicles and pustules are often pruritic.
When the patient scratches these pruritic lesions, rupture results and the liquid contents are released. As the liquid contents dry, yellowish-brown crusts (often referred to as "honey colored") are formed. Although regional lymphadenopathy is often seen in association with impetigo, systemic symptoms (fever, for example) are not.
Impetigo is often diagnosed on a clinical basis and does not require special testing. In instances where the diagnosis is not clinically obvious, a definitive diagnosis may be established via culture of the involved skin.
If impetigo is suspected, the patient should be referred to a physician for treatment. Treatment is indicated to relieve symptoms, halt the formation of new lesions, and prevent infection complications. Without treatment, the lesions often enlarge slowly and spread.
Topical antibiotics such as bacitracin, neomycin-bacitracin or mupirocin are used to treat impetigo. They must be applied to the affected area three times per day for one week. In severe cases, systemic antibiotics may be indicated.
Joen Iannucci Haring, DDS, MS, is an associate professor of clinical dentistry, Section of Diagnostic Services, The Ohio State University College of Dentistry.