You may have experienced intertrigo without even being aware of it. That’s because most people don’t know the clinical name for this very common form of skin irritation. Anybody who has ever had a baby or taken care of a baby would know it as diaper rash. This is actually just one type of intertrigo; there are many others that can affect both babies and adults. All of them are uncomfortable and unpleasant to look at but fortunately they are also very easy to treat and not considered serious in most cases.

The definition of intertrigo is an irritation of the skin that occurs anywhere on the body where there are folds of skin that rub together. These folds create warm, most pockets where sweat can be trapped and cause the skin to become inflamed. Because babies are chubby and have short necks, they have more of these skin overlaps than older children and adults, making them more prone to the condition.

What causes intertrigo diaper rash?

Among adults, intertrigos are more likely to occur among obese individuals and women who have large breasts. In fact, the area under the breasts is one of the most common spots for intertrigos to develop. Obese individuals can also develop the irritation in less obvious locations since they tend to have many more folds and flaps of skin than most people. Another area where they are common in adults is between the toes and, occasionally, the fingers.

The causes of intertrigo are simple: friction, moisture and heat. It is this particular combination which can wreak havoc on sensitive skin, resulting in red, sore and even oozing patches. Simply put, when skin overlaps it rubs against itself repeatedly, particularly when an individual is participating in an activity that involves repetitive motion such as cycling or running. Not only does this motion produce friction, it also produces sweat which further irritates the skin.

Because heat is a factor in the development of intertrigo, the condition is more likely to occur during the warm summer months. It can also occur when an individual wears tight shoes and socks, an ill fitting bra or if a child is left in wet diapers for a length of time. All of these produce restrictive conditions that don’t allow the skin to get enough air. If the skin can’t dry off naturally, then continued friction will cause irritation.

What are the various treatment options?

Fortunately, treatment for intertrigo is fairly simple as well. In most cases, the application of a zinc oxide lotion will usually be sufficient to reduce irritation. In cases where the intertrigo becomes infected, a hydrocortisone cream or, in the case of fungal infection, a clomitrizol cream may be applied to treat the underlying infection. For obese individuals, losing weight can also help significantly reduce the likelihood of developing this skin condition.

There have been several studies performed in recent years to gauge the effectiveness of various treatments. While the application of medicinal creams seems to be the best line of defense, these studies also hit on other possible treatments including oral medication and in the case of women with intertrigo beneath the breasts, breast reduction surgery. In fact, studies conducted in the early 2000’s determined that breast reduction is effective in almost every case of mammary intertrigo.

Nothing is more uncomfortable than developing a nasty rash in a very personal area, but the important thing to remember about intertrigo is that it is not serious and can be cleared up quite easily. So don’t panic the next time you spot a rash; just breathe easy and take the necessary steps to make it fade away quickly. If topical applications don’t seem to be working it’s always a good idea to have a dermatologist take a look to make sure it isn’t something more serious.