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Author: Hon A/Prof Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, 1998. Revised and updated August 2015.

Intertrigo — codes and concepts

What is intertrigo?

Intertrigo describes a rash in the flexures or body folds, such as behind the ears, in the folds of the neck, under the arms (axillae), under a protruding abdomen, in the groin, between the buttocks, in the finger webs or toe spaces.

Although intertrigo may affect one skin fold, it is common for it to involve multiple sites.

Who gets intertrigo?

Intertrigo can affect males and females of any age. It is particularly common in people that are overweight or obese (see metabolic syndrome). Other contributing factors are:

  • Genetic tendency to skin disease
  • Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)

What are the clinical features of intertrigo?

Intertrigo can be acute (recent onset), relapsing (recurrent), or chronic (present for more than 6 weeks). The exact appearance and behaviour depends on the underlying cause or causes.

The skin affected by intertrigo is inflamed, ie reddened and uncomfortable. It may become moist and macerated, leading to fissuring (cracks) and peeling.

What is the cause of intertrigo?

Intertrigo is due to genetic and environmental factors.

  • Flexural skin has relatively high surface temperature
  • Moisture from insensible water loss and sweating cannot evaporate due to occlusion.
  • Friction from movement of adjacent skin results in chafing.

The microorganisms that are normally resident on flexural skin, the microbiome, include corynebacteria, other bacteria and yeasts. These multiply in warm moist environments and may cause disease.

We can classify intertrigo into infectious and inflammatory origin but there is often overlap.

  • Infections tend to be unilateral and asymmetrical.
  • Inflammatory disorders tend to be symmetrical affecting armpits, groins, under the breasts and the abdominal folds, except atopic dermatitis, which more often arises on the neck, and in elbow and knee creases.

Infections causing intertrigo

Candida albicans (thrush

  • Rapid development
  • Itchy moist peeling red and white skin
  • Small superficial papules and pustules
Candida albicans

Erythrasma: Corynebacterium minutissimum 

  • Persistent brown patches
  • Minimal scale
  • Asymptomatic

Tinea: Trichophyton rubrum + T interdigitale

  • Tinea cruris (groin) and athletes foot (between toes)
  • Slowly spreads over weeks to months
  • Irregular annular plaques
  • Peeling, scaling
Tinea cruris

Impetigo: Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes

  • Rapid development
  • Moist blisters and crusts on red base
  • Contagious, so other family members may also be affected

Boils: Staphylococcus aureus

  • Rapid development
  • Very painful follicular papules and nodules
  • Central pustule or abscess

Folliculitis: Staphylococcus aureus

  • Acute or chronic
  • Superficial tender red papules
  • Pustules centred on hair follicles
  • May be provoked by shaving, waxing, epilating

Common inflammatory skin conditions causing intertrigo

Flexural psoriasis

  • Well-defined smooth or shiny red patches
  • Very persistent
  • Common in submmamary and groin creases
  • Symmetrical involvement
  • May fissure (crack) in the crease
  • Red patches on other sites are scaly
Flexural psoriasis

 Seborrhoeic dermatitis

  • Ill-defined salmon-pink thin patches
  • Common in axilla and groin creases
  • Fluctuates in severity
  • May be asymmetrical
  • Often unnoticed
  • Red patches on face and scalp tend to be flaky
Seborrhoeic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis

  • First occurs in infancy
  • Common in elbow and knee creases
  • Characterised by flares
  • Very itchy
  • Acute eczema is red, blistered, swollen
  • Chronic eczema is dry, thickened, lined (lichenified)
Atopic dermatitis

Contact irritant dermatitis

  • Acute, relapsing or chronic

Irritants include:

  • Body fluids: sweat, urine
  • Friction due to movement and clothing
  • Dryness due to antiperspirant
  • Soap
  • Excessive washing
Irritant contact dermatitis

Contact allergic dermatitis

  • Acute or relapsing

Allergen may be:

  • Fragrance, preservative or medicament in deodorant, wet-wipe or other product
  • Component of underwear (rubber in elastic, nickel in bra wire)
Allergic contact dermatitis

Hidradenitis suppurativa

  • Chronic disorder
  • Boil-like follicular papules and nodules
  • Discharging sinuses and scars
Hidradenitis suppurativa 

Hailey-Hailey disease

  • Intermittent painful shallow blisters that quickly break down
  • Rare inherited condition
  • Often starts age 20–40 years
  • Most troublesome during summer months
Hailey-Hailey disease

Granular parakeratosis

  • Red brown scaly rash
  • May be itchy
  • Rare
  • Biopsy essential for diagnosis
Granular parakeratosis

Fox-Fordyce disease

  • Dome-shaped follicular papules in armpits
  • Often persistent
  • Asymptomatic or itchy
  • Reduced sweating
Fox-Fordyce disease

Toe-web intertrigo (athlete's foot)

Toe-web intertrigo

What investigations should be done?

Investigations may be necessary to determine the cause of intertrigo.

What is the treatment for intertrigo?

Treatment depends on the underlying cause, if identified, and on which micro-organisms are present in the rash. Combinations are common.

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Related information



  • Janniger CK, Schwartz RA, Szepietowski JC, Reich A. Intertrigo and common secondary skin infections. Am Fam Physician. 2005 Sep 1;72(5):833-8. Review. PubMed PMID: 16156342. Journal.
  • Tüzün, Yalçın, et al. Diaper (napkin) dermatitis: a fold (intertriginous) dermatosis. Clinics in dermatology 33.4 (2015): 477-482. PubMed.
  • De Britto LJ, Yuvaraj J, Kamaraj P, Poopathy S, Vijayalakshmi G. Risk Factors for Chronic Intertrigo of the Lymphedema Leg in Southern India: A Case-Control Study. Int J Low Extrem Wounds. 2015 Dec;14(4):377-83. doi: 10.1177/1534734615604289. Epub 2015 Sep 8. PubMed PMID: 26353823. PubMed.
  • Martín Ezquerra G, Sánchez Regaña M, Herrera Acosta E, Umbert Millet P. Topical tacrolimus for the treatment of psoriasis on the face, genitalia, intertriginous areas and corporal plaques. J Drugs Dermatol. 2006 Apr;5(4):334-6. PubMed PMID: 16673800. PubMed
  • Weidner, Till, et al. Gram‐negative bacterial toe web infection–a systematic review. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (2017). PubMed.

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