When Katie Wright noticed a red bump above her eyebrow, she thought it was just another pimple forming deep underneath the skin. But little did she know that when she’d pop it, she’d land in the emergency room.
As it turns out the bump wasn’t a pimple at all, it was a staph infection and she was at risk of going blind and contracting a serious brain infection.
“A week ago I decided to pick at what I thought was a giant under the skin pimple because it had been hurting for a while and got too painful to ignore,” Wright wrote on her Twitter. “Within an hour my entire face swelled up and hurt. It felt like something was going to burst out of my skin.”
The doctors diagnosed Wright with a case of Cellulitis, which is a form of a staph infection. But instead of having a head (which is normal in staph infections), it ended up affecting the deep cellular tissue.
However, Wright said she received treatment through a course of IV antibiotics just in time, and the infection did not spread beyond the original area, she reported on her GoFundMe page.
Wright believes the infection stemmed from a dirty eyebrow pencil, which she hadn’t cleaned.
“I am amazed at the responses people have posted and truly happy that so many people have been inspired to take that extra step in their makeup routine and clean their brushes and tools,” she wrote. “I’m not kidding when I say it is critical!”
Contracting a staph infection is easier than one might think. Such an infection is spread through contact.
“There are different types of staph but I this case we’re talking about the type called ‘Staphylococcus aureus,’” dermatologist Dr. Lisa Kellett says. “It is found on the skin and one of the problems with it is that there are some Staphylococcus aureus strains that are resistant to certain antibiotics that make them more difficult to treat and one of them is called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.”
Usually, these infections are limited to the skin, Kellett says, but there is a risk of it spreading into the bloodstream, in which case it can be life threatening. There is also risk of it spreading to the brain, an infection known as encephalitis.
“The cause of this infection is transferred from an individual’s hands,” Kellett explains. “It can be on makeup brushes, but usually it’s actually hand contact. It can be found in hair salons, estheticians who do manicures and pedicures. You can also get it from facials.”
Pimples and staph infections can actually appear and feel quite similar, Kellett says. So it’s important to not pick at any bumps on your skin.
Before touching the growth, it’s important to consult a professional to determine what the growth is. If it’s a pimple, it will most likely be suggested that you try an over-the-counter product with benzoyl peroxide.
“However, if you’re feeling unwell and have fever and chills, that would be a warning sign that it might not be acne,” Kellett warns. “In general, picking and prodding at things on our skin are not a good idea.”