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Cellulitis is a skin infection caused by bacteria, which has the potential to spread rapidly to the deep layers of the skin and to other parts of the body, but the common site of infection is the lower leg. It gives rise to several health complications if the blood gets infected. Cellutilis is not contagious.

Symptoms of cellulitis

The skin appears red and swollen and it becomes tender. There’s considerable pain and warmth in and around the infection. It can appear anywhere over your body but the bacteria tends to attack on parts of the skin where blood circulation is poor and it has got wounds or inflammation. Pus filled abscess might develop over the skin in case of severe infection.

People who with weak immune system, diabetes, skin infections like eczema, circulatory problems, liver diseases or with a previous history of cellulitis are vulnerable to having cellulitis.

Causes of cellulitis

The infection is primarily caused by Staphylococcus and Streptococcus species although other bacteria also contribute to the infection. It can occur from

  • Wound, tear, injury, cuts and infection on skin
  • Open wounds in bone or infection in bone
  • Insect bites can transfer the infection
  • Post surgical infections

Risk Factors for cellulitis

  • Age
  • Weakened immune system
  • Diabetes
  • Chicken pox and Shingles
  • Chronic swelling of your arms or legs (lymphedema)
  • Chronic fungal infection of your fingers or toes
  • Intravenous drug use

Complications of cellulitis

The bacteria can potentially enter your bloodstream and affect the lymphatic system if the infection is not treated. This condition is known as septicaemia.

Another rare but life threatening complication of cellulitis is necrotizing fasciitis- the bacteria enters the deep layers of tissues as a result the tissues die and form gangrene.

When to see a doctor

If the redness and swelling persist for a few days then you must check with a doctor. Do not wait to for the infection to spread and give rise to symptoms like fever, chills, vomiting, etc. In that case, you need emergency care.

Diagnosis of cellulitis

Your doctor will check the symptoms of cellulitis and evaluate the risk factors that might have led to the infection. To confirm that it’s a bacterial infection, you have to undergo blood test or wound culture test.

This is important to rule out the nature of the infection because the symptoms resemble other skin infections and circulating problems like clotting of blood.

Treatment for cellulitis

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The only treatment for cellulitis is administration of antibiotics as it is a bacterial infection. Doctors begin with a short term dose and observe the symptoms after completion of the course. If the symptoms persist then the course will be extended to a longer period. In severe cases, doctors consider administering antibiotics intravenously. You might be retained in hospital till the symptoms are under control.

Anti-inflammatory medicines are also given to reduce the pain and inflammation

Other symptoms like vomiting, fever, etc. will be managed simultaneously in the hospital.

Take rest until you feel better and keep your leg elevated while resting or sleeping

How to prevent cellullitis?

  • If you take some precautions chances of getting cellulitis is reduced. Remember the following things:
  • If you have wounded your skin then never neglect it. Wash it soap and water or an antiseptic lotion and keep it covered.
  • Maintain proper personal hygiene. Clean your feet after returning from outdoors and wear slipper indoors as well
  • Make sure you see a doctor if you have gotten insect/animal bites, punctured or deep wound, burns, blisters etc.

Advice from your physician

A rash that's red, swollen, tender and warm, and it's expanding- see your doctor the same day

Fever or pain accompanies the rash, or the rash is changing rapidly, seek emergency care

It's important to identify and treat cellulitis early because the condition can cause a serious infection by spreading rapidly throughout your body.

Treatment involves a prescription oral antibiotic for 10 to 14 days.

In most cases, signs and symptoms of cellulitis disappear after a few days.

If they don't, if they're extensive or if you have a high fever, you may need to be hospitalized and receive antibiotics through your veins

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: June 08, 2015