Definition

What is cellulitis?

Cellulitis manifests as a swollen, red area of skin that you may feel hot and tender. It seems to spread rapidly to other parts of the body. Cellulitis isn’t usually spread from person to person.

Skin on lower legs is considered as most commonly affected, although cellulitis can occur anywhere on your body or face. Cellulitis might influence only your skin’s surface. Or it might also affect tissues underlying your skin and can spread to your lymph nodes and bloodstream.

If you are not treated, the spreading infection can rapidly turn life-threatening. It’s important to seek immediate medical attention if cellulitis symptoms occur.

How common is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a relatively common infection, affecting all racial and ethnic groups. Individuals older than 45 years have a higher incidence of cellulitis.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of cellulitis?

There are a number of signs and symptoms of cellulitis. Feasible signs and symptoms of cellulitis, which usually happens on one side of the body, include:

  • Red area of skin that tends to expand
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Pain
  • Warmth
  • Fever
  • Red spots
  • Blisters
  • Skin dimpling

When should I see my doctor?

Early diagnosis and treatment can stop this condition from worsening and prevent another medical emergency, so talk to your doctor as soon as possible to prevent this serious condition.

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a condition occurs when bacteria, most commonly streptococcus and staphylococcus, enter through a crack or break in your skin. The incidence of a more serious staphylococcus infection called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is currently increasing.Though cellulitis can occur anywhere on your body, the most common location is the lower leg. Bacteria is most likely to enter disrupted areas of skin, such as where you have had recent surgery, cuts, puncture wounds, an ulcer, athlete’s foot or dermatitis.

Certain types of insect or spider bites also can transmit the bacteria that start the infection. Bacteria can also enter through areas of dry, flaky skin or swollen skin.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for cellulitis?

You may have higher risks for this condition if you are experiencing these following conditions:

  • Injury

Any cut, fracture, burn or scrape gives bacteria an entry point.

  • Weakened immune system

Conditions that weaken your immune system, such as diabetes, leukemia and HIV/AIDS, leave you more susceptible to infections. Certain medications, such as corticosteroids, also can weaken your immune system.

  • Skin conditions

Skin disorders, such as eczema, athlete’s foot, chickenpox and shingles, are able to cause breaks in the skin and give bacteria an entry point.

  • Chronic swelling of your arms or legs (lymphedema)

Swollen tissue may crack, leaving your skin vulnerable to bacterial infection.

  • History of cellulitis

People who previously had cellulitis, especially of the lower leg, may be more prone to develop it again.

  • Intravenous drug use

People who inject illegal drugs have a higher risk of developing cellulitis.

  • Obesity

Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing cellulitis and having recurring episodes.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is cellulitis diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. These tests may include:

  • A blood test if the infection is suspected to have spread to your blood
  • An X-ray if there’s a foreign object in the skin or the bone underneath is possibly infected
  • A culture. Your doctor will use a needle to draw fluid from the affected area and send it to the lab.

How is cellulitis treated?

Cellulitis treatment usually includes a prescription oral antibiotic. Within three days of starting an antibiotic, let your doctor know whether the infection is responding to treatment. You’ll need to take the antibiotic for as long as your doctor directs, usually five to 10 days but possibly as long as 14 days.

In most cases, signs and symptoms of cellulitis disappear after a few days. You may need to be hospitalized and receive antibiotics through your veins (intravenously) if:

  • Signs and symptoms don’t respond to oral antibiotics
  • Signs and symptoms are extensive
  • You have a high fever

Usually, doctors prescribe a drug that’s effective against both streptococci and staphylococci. It’s important that you take the medication as directed and finish the entire course of medication, even after you feel better.

Your doctor also might recommend elevating the affected area, which may speed recovery.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage cellulitis?

Following these useful tips can help you to prevent this condition:

  • Wash your wound daily with soap and water

Do this gently as part of your normal bathing.

  • Apply a protective cream or ointment

For most surface wounds, an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment (Neosporin, Polysporin, others) provides adequate protection.

  • Cover your wound with a bandage

Change bandages at least daily.

  • Watch for signs of infection

Redness, pain and drainage all signal possible infection and the need for medical evaluation.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: June 28, 2017 | Last Modified: June 28, 2017

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