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Dermatology Online Journal

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Reflectance confocal microscopy for the diagnosis of skin infections and infestations


Reflectance confocal microscopy (RCM) is a noninvasive real-time imaging technique that has been widely used for the diagnosis of skin cancer. More recently, it has been reported as a useful tool for the diagnosis and management of several inflammatory and infectious skin disorders. This article provides an overview of the current available applications of RCM use in cutaneous infections and infestations. PubMed was used to search the following terms in various combinations: reflectance confocal microscopy, skin, hair, nail, infection, parasitosis, mycosis, virus, bacteria. All papers were accordingly reviewed. In most cutaneous infections or infestations, the main alterations are found in the epidermis and upper dermis, where the accuracy of confocal microscopy is nearly similar to that of histopathology. The high resolution of this technique allows the visualization of most skin parasites, fungi, and a few bacteria. Although viruses cannot be identified because of their small size, viral cytopathic effects can be observed on keratinocytes. In addition, RCM can be used to monitor the response to treatment, thereby reducing unnecessary treatments.

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