Bacterial infections: uncommon presentations

Clin Dermatol. 2005 Sep-Oct;23(5):503-8. doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2005.01.007.


The essence of dermatology is morphology. The most important instrument in the practice of dermatology has always been, and still is, the naked eye; however, "We see only what we are ready to see, what we have been taught to see" (Jean Martin Charcot). Although most practitioners will easily correctly diagnose common bacterial skin diseases (such as cellulitis, erysipelas, impetigo, etc), only a trained and updated dermatologist will recognize the unusual forms and rare variants of these diseases. Bacterial skin diseases are sometimes acute and life-threatening. The mortality rates from necrotizing fasciitis range from 20% to 40%, to name just one example. It is not unreasonable to expect that dermatologists, whether in clinical practice or in referral centers, will be the first physicians to be confronted with unusual variants of bacterial skin diseases that have been unrecognized by non-dermatologists. Some of these cases might even be life-threatening, and only prompt and early recognition, diagnosis, and treatment can make the difference between losing and saving a patient's life. In short, we dermatologists should hone our clinical diagnostic skills and expand our knowledge of the rare forms and unusual and atypical variants of skin diseases: the textbook variants will probably be recognized and treated by general practitioners.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cellulitis / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Ecthyma / diagnosis
  • Erysipelas / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Impetigo / diagnosis
  • Skin Diseases, Bacterial / diagnosis*
  • Skin Diseases, Bacterial / pathology