What is cellulitis?
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection in your skin.
Cellulitis is a common skin infection that can spread quickly and be very serious
The infected area hurts and is red, warm, and swollen
Cellulitis is most common on your legs but can happen anywhere
If the infection reaches your bloodstream, it can be life threatening
What causes cellulitis?
Cellulitis is caused by germs (bacteria) that get into your skin. Bacteria are most likely to enter through small breaks in your skin from scrapes, punctures, surgery, burns, fungal infections, animal bites, and skin disorders. However, cellulitis can also occur in skin that is not obviously injured.
Cellulitis is often caused by Staphylococcus bacteria (staph infection). One type of staphylococcus that can cause cellulitis is known as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). MRSA is resistant to many antibiotics and can be hard to treat.
People with a weakened immune system Overview of the Immune System The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system's job is to attack things that don’t belong in your body, including: Germs... read more are more likely to get an infection that causes cellulitis.
People have a higher risk of getting cellulitis repeatedly if they have:
Other skin diseases, such as eczema Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) Dermatitis is a general term for common skin irritation and inflammation. Atopic dermatitis, also called eczema, is a long-term type of dermatitis that usually runs in families. It causes a... read more or athlete's foot Athlete's Foot Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that causes a rash on moist areas of your feet. Athlete's foot is very common because water gets trapped in the warm spaces between your toes It can spread... read more
A swollen arm or leg
Damaged leg veins that prevents blood from flowing normally
What are the symptoms of cellulitis?
Skin redness, swelling, warmth, and pain
Sometimes blisters with yellow fluid
Cellulitis usually starts as a small, red patch that's slightly sore. The infected area can get larger quickly. In a couple of days, it could spread from a spot the size of a quarter on your calf to cover your entire lower leg.
If the infection gets into the blood stream, you can have high fever, low blood pressure, and shut down of some of your organs (sepsis Sepsis and Septic Shock Sepsis is when germs (bacteria) get into your bloodstream and trigger a serious body-wide reaction. When sepsis is severe, one or more of your organs may shut down. For example, your kidneys... read more ).
How can doctors tell if I have cellulitis?
Doctors diagnose cellulitis based on how your skin looks. There are no tests to tell for sure. However, doctors may do tests such as an ultrasound Ultrasonography Ultrasonography is a safe imaging test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the insides of your body. Ultrasonography doesn't use radiation (x-rays). Ultrasonography is also called... read more to make sure the redness and swelling in your leg isn't because of a blood clot Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is when a blood clot forms inside a large vein. Usually the vein is deep in your leg, but a clot may form in a vein in your pelvic area or your arm. A blood clot is... read more .
See a doctor immediately if an area on your skin is red, swollen, and painful.
How do doctors treat cellulitis?
Antibiotics to kill the bacteria
Usually you take the antibiotics by mouth but sometimes, when there is serious infection, by vein (IV) in the hospital
If you have cellulitis in your leg, doctors will ask you to elevate it
How can I prevent cellulitis?
Keep skin wounds clean, cover them with a bandage, and apply an antibiotic cream for protection
Treat fungal foot infections (such as athlete’s foot) and other skin conditions to help heal any breaks in the skin
If you have diabetes Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more or poor circulation, examine your feet every day, use a moisturizer, and avoid injury by wearing proper shoes